Did Devils drop the ball in not trading Kovalchuk?

Getty
10 Comments

Amusingly enough, as great as Ray Shero and the New Jersey Devils’ run of recent trades has been, reportedly failing to move Ilya Kovalchuk overshadows those successes (at least in the eyes of some fans).

The way the CBA works out, Kovalchuk could be a UFA next summer, so in failing to trade him during this off-season, they get nothing.

Out of context, that seems like poor work by Shero.

When you dig deeper, it’s a pretty complicated (or at least challenging) situation.

As this post notes, Kovalchuk likely had incentive to spend at least one more year in the KHL in order to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

One also wonders if they would have only received “pennies on the dollar” if they did make a trade, and what if the only real takers were a division rival like the Columbus Blue Jackets or – even worse for Devils fans – the New York Rangers?

MORE: Shero noted that Kovalchuk “drove the bus” in many ways.

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski dives into additional details about Shero may or may not have been thinking; overall, it’s difficult to figure out how severe a misstep this really was without knowing what was truly on the table.

Really, it brings up a fascinating question for Devils fans: what would have been a suitable price to possibly power up the hated Rangers?

A remarkable run otherwise

It’s worth bringing up this point again, though: Shero has enjoyed a very nice run of trades, and the Devils began getting great value even before he took over being that they landed Cory Schneider for a reasonable price.

When you take a look at the structure of the team, almost every one of the Devils’ best assets came via trades (at least before they drafted Nico Hischier first overall).

The Taylor HallAdam Larsson trade is a punchline in some circles. It’s starting to look like the same can be said for the Marcus Johansson swap.

Even with an off 2016-17 in mind, Schneider seems like he’ll be worth the investment. Kyle Palmieri isn’t quite the headliner that Hall is, but he’s a key part of the Devils offense, and they nabbed him from Anaheim for cheap.

***

There are a lot of factors to consider regarding Kovalchuk, including what kind of aspirations the Devils have for 2017-18.

If New Jersey thinks it can be at least a playoff bubble team, do they really want to make a division rival – particularly a bitter one like the Rangers – stronger with Kovalchuk, just for meager returns?

Even if Shero legitimately dropped the ball in this specific case, Devils fans should take heart: the good has heavily outweighed the bad, particularly when it comes to trades.