Kovy trade: Devils had depth to deal, Flyers didn't

   An NHL source tells us the Flyers were never a serious player in the sweepstakes for Atlanta superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk, a potential unrestricted free agent after the season who was dealt to New Jersey Wednesday night.

    Kovalchuk, who has 31 goals, turned down two mega offers from the Thrashers (12-years for $101 million, and seven years for $70 million), causing Atlanta to send him to the Devils _ and strengthening one of the Flyers' top rivals.

    Atlanta had shown interest in Flyers' wingers James van Riemsdyk and Scott Hartnell, along with defenseman Braydon Coburn. Hartnell has a no-trade clause.

     Instead, the Thrashers will receive defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and New Jersey's first-round pick in the 2010 draft. Defenseman Anssi Salmela, traded by the Devils to the Thrashers last March for Niclas Havelid, will return to New Jersey as part of the deal. The teams will also flip second-round picks.

    In the end, the Devils, who have the NHL's 21st-ranked offense, had the depth _ and the cap space _ to make the deal. The Flyers didn't.

   With the trade, New Jersey has bolstered its sagging offense and could become a Stanley Cup champion  _ much like the 1999-2000 team after it made a similar deal  that brought another Russian sniper, Alexander Mogilny, to the Devils.

    The Flyers will face the new-look Devils on Monday in Philly, and Wednesday in Newark.

    * * * * * * * * * 

     Defenseman Matt Carle (3 goals, 21 assists, plus-14) was bypassed as a replacement for the U.S. Olympic team Wednesday.

   Anaheim’s Ryan Whitney (4 goals, 20 assists, minus-7) and Carolina’s Tim Gleason (5 goals, 10 assists, minus-2) were selected to replace the injured Mike Komisarek of Toronto and Paul Martin of New Jersey.

   Like Gleason, Carle is a superb shot blocker.