We all know the saying about hindsight. It's as clear as the signature at the bottom of Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year contract.
After a fascinating, bizarre and ultimately quiet saga, the Russian sniper decided to stay in Newark.
But could he have landed on Causeway Street?
Or better yet, how big a bullet did the Bruins dodge by not making a trade for Kovalchuk a few months ago when the playoffs were merely a delusion to fans?
The New Jersey Devils are turning a corner in their history. Kovalchuk's signing looks to be the first step in a change of philosophy for a system that won the Stanley Cup on the idea of defense over offense and the team over the individual. This shift no doubt has been accelerated by the departure of former head coach Jacques Lemaire and the eventual decline of goaltender Martin Brodeur.
Kovalchuk is the new centerpiece in New Jersey while the core in Boston has long been set.
Back in March, when the Bruins were starved for goal scoring and Kovalchuk hit the trade market, many fans were demanding that Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli make the move for the Russian.
It was a tumultuous time. The Bruins were having trouble scoring two goals a game, and the playoff window was closing fast. Meanwhile, fans were split between wanting to roll the dice for Kovalchuk or declaring the season lost, making any trade in which the Bruins were not sellers a waste of time.
Kovalchuk ended up leaving Atlanta for Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and the Devils' first-round pick. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable price, considering the Thrashers knew they wouldn’t be able to sign the left winger at the end of the year.
For the Bruins, acquiring Kovalchuk would have equated to something along the lines of Blake Wheeler, Dennis Wideman and a first-round draft pick (who knows whether it would have been Toronto’s pick or Boston’s own?).
But it is difficult to translate deals from one team to another team, especially for players of Kovalchuk's caliber.
The Thrashers easily could have demanded the Maple Leafs’ pick, which was already looking to be a top pick, or one of the Bruins' top centers like Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci. The Bruins also might have been forced to surrender a top prospect, perhaps leaving them without Joe Colborne or Maxime Sauve, both of whom look to be in the Bruins' fold as early as this coming season.
This is all speculation, of course, and speculation that ended up meaning nothing since the Bruins made the playoffs and advanced to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals without Kovalchuk.
In the end, the Bruins can thank Devils GM Lou Lamoriello for not adding to Boston’s current cap crunch. Despite Lamoriello's ability to limit Kovalchuk's cap hit to around $6 million per year, New Jersey will have to shed some salary.
If the B’s had acquired Kovalchuk, it would have cost a lot to keep him in town, too.
The Bruins have enough problems when it comes to the cap, and Kovalchuk would have handcuffed them further. With team cornerstones Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron looking for new contracts soon, Boston will need to have money to keep them around long term.
Chiarelli's gamble paid off in the end. He knew his hand and walked away in a good position.
Now the Bruins head into the season with new stud forwards Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton and a cap situation that, though still tight, is free of one Russian headache.
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