Before the NHL's players wandered off to Vancouver for the Olympics, Lou Lamoriello pulled the trigger on a deal to bring Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils. Kovalchuk, who is in the last year of his contract is considered a rental because his service to the Devils organization is not guaranteed past these playoffs. In return, the Devils gave up Niclas Bergfors (A 1st round pick in 2005), Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier (2nd round pick in 2008 and captain of the Canadian junior team), as well as a 1st Round Pick in the upcoming 2010 draft. The Devils also reacquired Anssi Salmela in the deal.
That is an absolute ridiculous amount of assets to give up for a player who is not guaranteed to be on your team next September. I would argue that if he was under contract, Kovalchuk is worth that package, but unfortunately he isn't. Now the only way Lou Lamoriello and the Devils can save themselves some embarrassment is to get Kovalchuk signed to a new deal, which will take the rental tag off his forehead. But that's easier said that done as Kovalchuk is most likely going to be looking for a huge deal both in dollars and in term, which is not something that Lamoriello usually does. With that said, Lamoriello doesn't usually mortgage the future either.
But as I stated above, these types of trade deadline deals have really diminished over the last couple of seasons as general managers now see how much bigger the potential damage is in the post-lockout NHL. Before the lockout, these deals still occurred, but the teams usually making them, such as the Rangers and the Leafs would just cover up the mess in the offseason with heavy spending. That is no longer an option. With young players having such a prominent role on successful teams in the post lockout version of this league, the devastating effects of these deadline deals are becoming increasingly evident.
They haven't always turned out to be as bad as they looked when they happened, but I have a bad feeling about this one. Here's a look at some of the most head scratching deadline deals over the last four seasons:
To Oilers: Dwayne Roloson
To Wild: 2006 1st Round Pick (Trevor Lewis)
The trade actually worked out well for the Oilers as Dwayne Roloson helped the team reach the Stanley Cup Finals after entering the playoffs as the 8th seed. The Wild eventually traded the pick to the Kings who selected Trevor Lewis. Lewis doesn't look like he will be an impact player at the NHL level. But this trade could have looked a lot worse had the Oilers not made the finals and the pick was used to take one of the other players still on the board when Lewis was taken, such as Christ Stewart, Claude Giroux or Semyon Varlamov.
To Oilers: Sergei Samsonov
To Bruins: 2006 2nd Round Pick (Milan Lucic), Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny.
The Oilers really pressed their luck in 2006 and got burned. Again, they made it to the Finals and so it's not that bad considering that the trade didn't look that bad when it happened. The Bruins picking Lucic really has to sting though. Samsonov on the other hand is a player that has pretty much fallen off the map.
2007 was probably the worst of the post-lockout years when it comes to deadline deals. Here's a recap of some of the worst.
To Predators: Peter Forsberg
To Flyers: Scottie Upshall (1st Round Pick in 2002), Ryan Parent (1st Round Pick in 2005), 2007 1st Round Pick (Jonathan Blum), 2007 3rd Round Pick (Phil de Simone)
This trade just leaves me shaking my head because it reeks of desperation. It was a disaster of a trade because Forsberg brought with him his injury baggage and the Predators were out in 5 games in the first round of the playoffs. To add insult to injury, Jonathan Blum was actually still picked by the Predators in the first round after they reacquired their pick in the offseason in exchange for Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell.
To Thrashers: Keith Tkachuk
To Blues: 2007 1st Round Pick (Michael Backlund), 2007 3rd Round Pick (Brett Sonne), 2008 2nd Round Pick (Philip McRae), Glen Metropolit
This trade could have been a lot worse, but it still doesn't look that good considering that the Thrashers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Rangers and Michael Backlund looks like he might be a star in this league.
To Islanders: Ryan Smyth
To Oilers: 2007 1st Round Pick (Alex Plante), Robert Nilsson, Ryan O'Marra (1st Round Pick in 2005)
This trade could have ended up looking a lot worse for the Islanders than it has. First of all, the Islanders had no business making this deal considering that they didn't even have a playoff spot locked when they made this deal and only entered the playoffs as the number eight seed after squeaking in by beating the Devils in a shootout in the last game of the season. The Devils used Scott Clemmenson in goal for that game and had they won, it would have been the Leafs that entered the playoffs in that final spot. (Yes, I'm still bitter about it). Anyways, the Islanders were eliminated in 5 games in the first round. Considering that teams still in the playoff hunt are trading their pending UFA's, such as the Thrashers this season, this was a very risky move by Islanders that had very little upside.
After general managers were able to view the wreckage from the 2007 deals, the head scratching deadline deals declined in 2008.
To Penguins: Marian Hossa, Pascal Dupuis
To Thrashers: Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito, 2008 1st Round Pick (Daultan Leveille)
This trade, while expensive, doesn't actually look too bad on the Penguins. If there is one team that can give up a couple of prospects it's the Penguins. On top of that, the Penguins made it to the Stanley Cup Finals where they eventually lost to the Red Wings in six games. However, they gained valuable experience that helped them take home the cup the following season. The only one that loses in this deal is Marian Hossa since he lost in the Stanley Cup Finals both times.
To Sharks: Brian Campbell
To Sabres: Steve Bernier, 2008 First Round Pick (Tyler Ennis)
While the trade didn't hurt the Sharks all that much since they are still regular season warriors, it didn't help them either. Campbell didn't re-sign with the team and the Sharks are still making fools out of themselves in the playoffs.
2009 didn't really have much going on in terms of crazy deals except for one, which isn't even that bad, at least not yet.
To Flames: Olli Jokinen, 3rd Round Pick
To Coyotes: 2010 1st Round Pick, Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust
Ok I lied, the trade is pretty bad. Lombardi is tearing it up this year and the Yotes still get to make that pick. To add insult to injury, the Coyotes are flying high and in the playoffs while the Flames are in shambles. Jokinen has since been shipped off to the Rangers for Higgins and Kotalik. Flames lose this deal big time.
As you can see, these deadline deals rarely pay off. I'm sure Lou Lamoriello will learn his lesson. The Kovalchuk deal looks like it may be the worst one yet, but at least it will give other general managers around the league some more proof that rental players are not the answer.
At the end of the day, when your team is already having a successful season, why pay big bucks to add another player to an already successful team for a couple of months? Of course there is much to gain just as there is much to lose, but I haven't seen it yet.