Ilya Kovalchuk: How Atlanta's Deal with the Devils May Change the NHL Forever

Ryan PickardCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2010

The New Jersey Devils made headlines around the NHL last night when they acquired Atlanta Thrashers star right winger Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk, who was the most sought-after player at the trade deadline, may have just made the Devils the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

While Kovalchuk never actually came out and demanded a trade, it was pretty evident from the way he was acting that he wanted out of Atlanta, the sooner the better. Thrashers GM Don Waddell had made more than his fair share of offers to Kovalchuk, trying to keep the unsatisfied winger in Atlanta.

The latest offer was reportedly a 12-year, $101 million deal. If he had accepted it, Kovalchuk would have been the highest paid player in the league. Instead, he didn't even give a response, signaling that it was time for the Thrashers and him to part ways.

While this deal helped out New Jersey greatly, it may have just signaled a change in the way NHL players negotiate contracts. I had written about the trade last night, and a fellow member of B/R, Eric Warren, brought up the idea that this trade may have just set a "very dangerous precedent."

For the most part, the NHL has been a league where players aren't constantly complaining and holding out for more money before signing with a team, unlike other major sporting leagues. That's what has made hockey players more easy to like. But all that might have just changed with what happened last night.

Ilya Kovalchuk has shown that if you complain or bitch enough, somebody is going to listen and say, "Well, he really wants out, and he is a star player so he should get what he wants." Do we really want to see this happen in the league?

Kovalchuk has always been known as a "me first" sort of player, and he is showing it even more now. By being traded to the Devils, he is showing other players that, if they want more money, all they have to do is refuse every contract that is offered to them, no matter how much money it is. Eventually they will get their way.

What's going to happen when the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Marian Gaborik hit the open market? Are they going to hold the league hostage, demanding as much money as they can? As crazy as that might sound, they could very easily do that when the time comes.

The Devils made a great deal here, and I congratulate them for that. They just got the biggest prize of the bunch and may have just added the missing ingredient for a Stanley Cup.

They also just made a deal with the devil, and it may just come back to bite them along with the entire NHL.