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Kovalchuk traded to NJ Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- The defensive-minded New Jersey Devils picked up one of the NHL's marquee goal scorers in acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers in a blockbuster deal Thursday nighgt.

In getting the 31-goal scorer from the Thrashers, the Devils shipped defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick this year to the Thrashers for Kovalchuk and former Devils defenseman Anssi Samlema. The teams also swapped second-round draft picks this year.

The deal was made just hours after Atlanta general manager Don Waddell said the franchise would aggressively explore all its options after Kovalchuk rejected a 12-year, $101 million extension.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello jumped at the situation and made the deal, noting that while the Devils gave away a lot, they have the depth in the organization to overcome it. He also noted that the Devils' recent scoring slump played a part.

''We felt Kovalchuk was a player who could come and fill the need that we felt we had for an explosive scorer and someone who could add a different dimension to our power play with the type of shot,'' Lamoriello said. ''Then it was just the case of trying to make it work some how where we could not sacrifice tomorrow.''

Lamoriello said the Devils have not spoken to Kovalchuk about an extension. He will become a free agent after this season.

Since the Thrashers drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001, Kovalchuk leads the NHL with 328 goals. The team has made the playoffs just once in his tenure.

Lamoriello said Kovalchuk is expected to play today when the Devils play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Since the Thrashers drafted Kovalchuk No. 1 overall in 2001, the Russian Olympian leads the NHL with 328 goals, but Atlanta has made just one playoff appearance and has never won a postseason game.

The 26-year-old Kovalchuk has 31 goals and 27 assists in 49 games this season for the Thrashers. He missed six games because of a broken bone in his foot.

''The power that he brings, he is a power forward, he has hockey sense and he knows how to make other people around him better,'' Lamoriello said. ''You can tell by the assists he gets. I am sure every one of you has seen him play. What he brings, he can do things a lot of people can't do.''

Lamoriello doesn't expect Kovalcuk will have a problem fitting into the Devils' team system.