NEWARK -- A pumped-up Ilya Kovalchuk is looking forward to making a legitimate Stanley Cup run with the New Jersey Devils this spring, but not before taking a final backhanded swipe at his former team.
"I'm excited," the Russian superstar told a packed room of reporters at the Prudential Center this morning. "For the first time in my career I'm with a first-class organization."
And the Atlanta Thrashers weren't?
Maybe Kovalchuk didn't come right out and slag his former team. But it certainly sounds that way.
Kovalchuk admitted being blown away by the fact that Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello personally flew to Washington Thursday night to pick him up and bring him back to Jersey just hours after acquiring the former 50-goal scorer from the Thrashers.
Kovalchuk and the Thrashers were in the U.S. capital in preparation for Friday's game against the Caps when the trade was made.
"That was great," Kovalchuk said. "It meant a lot."
Kovalchuk said he knew two days ago that he would be dealt after contract talks with the Thrashers went nowhere. The Thrashers were quick to issue a release Thursday claiming he had turned down a 12-year, $101 million US deal.
Of the many positives he sees in coming to New Jersey, one major advantage for Kovalchuk is the chance to play with Martin Brodeur instead of trying to score on him.
"He's a legend in this game," Kovalchuk said. "I tried scoring on him (at the morning skate) and even that was hard."
In the days leading up to the trade, Brodeur's buddies kept calling with rumours that Kovalchuk might be coming to Newark. Brodeur wasn't buying it.
"I didn't believe them," he laughed. "Then, when I saw the trade on the ticker (Thursday) night, I thought: "How amazing. It actually happened.'"
"Yes, I'm excited. Who wouldn't be? But I think my son is even more excited than I am. I have to get him a Kovalchuk jersey now."
Kovalchuk participated in the morning skate on a line with Dainius Zubrus and Jamie Langenbrunner in preparation for his Devils debut against the Maple Leafs Friday at the Prudential Center.
"He is one of the most dominating players in the game," said Leafs defenceman Garnet Exelby, a former teammate of Kovalchuk's in Atlanta. "You have to know where he is on the ice at any and all times."
Kovalchuk and defenceman Anssi Salmela were traded to New Jersey Thursday for defenceman Johnny Oduya, forwards Niclas Bergfors and Patrice Cormier, and a first round pick.
The teams also swapped second round selections.
CROSS CHECKS: Jonas Gustavsson will get the start against Kovalchuk and the Devils Friday. Brodeur will be in goal for the Devils.