In the winter of 2010, Atlanta Thrashers management was trying desperately to resign their biggest, and perhaps only superstar, Ilya Kovalchuk. The Russian winger was offered deals of $70 million and $101 million, however, both were turned down. The Thrashers couldn’t risk losing their NHL All Star to free agency, so they put him on the trade market.
To the surprise of nobody, the line of teams interested in acquiring a talent like Kovalchuk was lengthy. One of the teams rumored to be interested was the Boston Bruins.
Ultimately, the New Jersey Devils ended up swinging a trade with Atlanta that sent Kovalchuk to the Garden State. It was a win for the Devils at the time, but three years and one mammoth, albeit controversial, contract later, Kovalchuk announced his retirement from the NHL. He then immediately signed a deal that returned him to his home country to play in the KHL.
Could anyone have seen this coming during the trade bonanza in 2010? Of course not. That being said, the Bruins should take a moment and realize how lucky they are for not taking a shot at bringing Kovalchuk to Boston.
At the time, fans were clamoring for Bruins management to trade with Atlanta. After winning the President’s Trophy in 2008-09, the team was in the midst of some lackluster hockey the following year. How bad was it? Boston won only three games in the month of January, which included a 10-game losing streak. Can you blame fans for demanding a shakeup?
The Bruins weren’t scoring nearly enough. What better way to fix that then trade for a player coming off his fourth straight year of scoring over 40 goals? Trying to shake up a team in a lull? Deal some core players in exchange for a Russian sniper.
But just who would the Bruins have had to trade in order to get Kovalchuk out of Atlanta? The most persistent rumors circulating involved both David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Krejci was in the middle of a consistent year, while Lucic was struggling both on the ice and in terms of just staying healthy enough to get there at all.
Would it have been worth the deal? No, especially since a prospect and draft pick would’ve been included, too. Bare in mind, this was the year Boston held Toronto’s first-round pick, a prize piece many teams were after. Sure, it ended up being used on Tyler Seguin, who was dealt to the Dallas Stars a couple weeks ago, but still, predicting this result was as difficult as predicting a Kovalchuk retirement.
Or was it? Word around the league is this was a move the former Devil had been thinking about for some time. So, as easy as it would be to say the story may have ended differently if Kovalchuk was in Boston instead of New Jersey, it appears that isn’t the case. He’s been wanting to return to Russia for quite a while, which may include during the Devils Stanley Cup run last year.
So, the Bruins passed on dealing Krejci and Lucic for Kovalchuk despite fans and media alike voting for Boston to pull the trigger on the deal at the time, and I personally am thankful for it. Two core players for three years of potential scoring followed by a premature retirement? I think the Bruins feel the same way.