Devils loss underscores risk of player rentals and late-season shake-ups
April 23, 2010
Despite a late-season shake-up which brought them star forward Ilya Kovalchuk in a trade just before the NHL deadline, the New Jersey Devils suffered a 3-0 setback Thursday night and were eliminated four games to one by the underdog Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The disappointing loss came after New Jersey, which had enjoyed a solid season at or near the top of the eastern conference before acquiring Kovalchuk, sent Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and its 2010 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Thrashers in the blockbuster trade just prior to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Kovalchuk joined the Devils for their final 15 regular season games in March and early April before being counted on to give New Jersey some added scoring punch for a long playoff run.
Hockey Night in Canada panelist Mike Milbury was among those who immediately questioned the value of late-season player rentals hours after the loss Thursday night.
TEAM 1040 sport business commentator Tom Mayenknecht, the host of The Sport Market on TEAM 1040 and teamradio.ca, questioned whether such deals make sense in the salary cap era of the NHL, where building through the draft and player development seems to be gaining currency among the most progressive teams in the league.
Rumours around where Kovalchuk plays next season have already begun to swirl, raising the question of whether the Devils will have anything to show for the high first-rounder they gave up to get the Russian star. The free-wheeling Los Angeles Kings are rumoured to be a preferred destination for Kovalchuk, who had played his entire career in Atlanta before the late-season move to New Jersey.
Analysis of the history of late-season acquisitions, the odds are that Kovalchuk will be like most late-season player rentals in the NHL; a costly short-term move that falls short in long-term benefits.
www.TheSportMarket.biz with files from TEAMradio.ca.