The Atlanta Thrashers did not get value for Ilya Kovalchuk. Not even close.
Then again, getting equal value was nearly an impossible task for Atlanta GM Don Waddell given that Kovalchuk was set to be an unrestricted free agent. So just as was the case with Marian Hossa two years ago, Waddell did the best he could.
And therein lies the lesson. Again.
NHL teams don't seem to want to absorb the concept that if you go into a season with a star player facing unrestricted free agency, chances are that player isn't going to sign a new contract. Why would he? Having gone that far, at that point it just makes sense to test the market.
It was that way last season with the Florida Panthers and Jay Bouwmeester, and the Panthers took an even bigger bath than the Thrashers, losing Bouwmeester to free agency with almost no return.
And it will be that way the next time a marquee talent goes into the final year of his contract.
You might get something. But never enough.
Atlanta got bits and pieces, a decent prospect in Patrice Cormier, a useful defenceman in Johnny Oduya, a possible scorer in Niclas Bergfors and a first-round pick.
But nothing special. And while New Jersey, Kovalchuk's new home, is almost certainly looking at this as a rental situation - no way would the Devils pay Kovalchuk twice Marty Brodeur's salary of $5.2 million - the Devils can live with giving up those assets for less than one third of the regular season and the playoffs.
If Atlanta wanted more for Kovalchuk, they had to trade him last season, or at the very least, last summer.
Once this season began, all the leverage went to the player and the Thrashers essentially committed themselves to losing their best player for not much in return.
And the Devils were the beneficiary.
It will be interesting to see how the other big players in the Eastern Conference - Washington, Pittsburgh, etc. - respond to Jersey's bold move. The arms race is surely now on, but there may not be players available that can approximate Kovalchuk's possible impact with the Devils.
Does it now make the Devils favourites in the east over the Caps and Pens? No. But it gives the Devils two big guns up front in Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, three if Patrick Elias can bounce back from injury and finish the season strongly.
Oduya was a very useful guy on the back end, meanwhile, so in the same vein, the ability of Paul Martin to return after the Olympics at a high level will play a major role in how deep Jersey can go.
The best news is that despite the heaviest workload in hockey, goalie Martin Brodeur isn't feeling the least bit tired.
"I feel the best I've felt in. . .well. . .the best I've felt ever," said Brodeur this week, crediting his two-year-old committment to a new nutrition and conditioning program.