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Waiting for the next Leaf move; Stunned that Kovalchuk stays with the Devils- stunned they want him

While the recent draft day for the Leafs was anti-climactic (if you were hoping for a trade up to the first round) we can’t say the roster hasn’t been overhauled in the past twelve or so months. After the free agent moves to acquire Gustavsson, Komisarek and Beauchemin, the really big moves came later- Kessel, Phaneuf, Giguerre and now Versteeg and Armstrong.

They clearly have needs up the middle, but with Bozak (who should only get better) and Kulemin in the fold, and useful role-players like Sjostrom on hand, it’s a bit easier to feel optimistic going forward.

I just have a sense that something significant is coming, and I don’t mean the Kaberle trade. Don’t know what, of course. Just that Burke won’t rest until the roster is ever closer to his liking.


Ilya Kovalchuk is a guy I’ve loved watching from the day he came to the NHL. The obvious arrogance, sublime skill, that shot, his ability to score.

Now, I say this in part because he’s not on my team. You can admire the selfish players from afar, because they have the talent we all love to see, but if he was “my” team, I’m not so sure I would love his game. He was a coach killer in Atlanta, and turned down a stunning offer from the Thrashers a few months ago, which necessitated a trade.  He didn't exactly take a hometown discount to stay in Atlanta, not that too many pro athletes do these days.

He was the captain in Atlanta, but hardly a leader. If I had to guess, I’d guess more than a few of his teammates were happy to see him go. You always miss the talent and the production when that kind of superstar leaves, but you don’t necessarily miss the attitude, the lack of back-checking and the prima donna approach to the game.

I still feel New Jersey gave up a lot to get Kovalchuk -a former number one draft pick in Bergfors, a serviceable backliner in Oduya, young Cormier from the Quebec league, and New Jersey’s first rounder last month’s NHL draft. (For their part, Atlanta used that pick to get some talent from the Hawks, as part of a major trade before the draft.)

I posted, at the time and since, that I believed the decision to grab Kovalchuk was a poor decision by Lamoriello, a bit of desperation to save a season going bad. He wasn’t New Jersey’s “kind” of player and besides, I figured there was no way they would retain Kovalchuk once he became a free agent.

Lo and behold, he’s staying in New Jersey and it sounds like he would have made more money if he had accepted the Atlanta offer.

I still believe the deal will serve Atlanta very well in the years to come. And I’m not convinced that Kovalchuk will ever lead New Jersey back to Stanley Cup success, as he will eat up a lot of cap room, which will make it hard to bring in the required supporting cast. Brodeur is aging and they will not replace him easily. They’ll score more, but this is not the same team, obviously, that it was in its championship-contending years. Kovalchuk may be a band-up on a deep wound. And I wonder if that’s a contract they’ll want to move two seasons down the road.  Who will want it?

But for now, they keep a big-time goal scorer, and I’m guessing New Jersey fans will be happy to have him.

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