The Atlanta Thrashers’ last remaining star could be on his way out of town in the near future.
Ilya Kovalchuk is in the final season of his five-year, $32 million deal and extension talks between the Thrashers and their captain have basically come to a close.
After watching Marian Hossa, Marc Savard and Dany Heatley abandon ship it seems like Kovalchuk, whose 30 goals and 26 assists put him eighth in league scoring as of Thursday, may be set to follow in their footsteps despite a solid foundation of youth within the organization.
There are plenty of teams out there who would only gain from adding his services before the trade deadline, March 3.
While the Thrashers are desperate to re-sign their all-star forward, his asking price is far above what the organization is willing to offer as it looks like he is asking for close to the league’s maximum under the new collective bargaining agreement – which would roughly equal out to $11 million per season.
There will be no home town deal here.
The situation may remind some of Marian Gaborik and the Minnesota Wild last season where no matter what offer the Wild brought forward Gaborik wasn’t having any of it. Despite his injuries all last season, he was intent on testing the free agency market and the Wild lost him for nothing.
Don’t expect the same from Atlanta and general manager Don Waddell.
While Kovalchuk has said he would like to stay in Atlanta and be a part of the rebuilding process (again!) it seems he is much more interested in raking in the cash while he can.
It’s not everyday, or year, a player of his calibre is up for grabs so expect offers from around the league as team’s attempt to bulk up for a run at Lord Stanley. The teams mentioned from the beginning as potentially interested suitors were the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings. Each team has plenty of pieces to return to Atlanta for Kovalchuk, while L.A. would be the only one not having to shed cap space immediately.
That being said, are any willing to give up big chunks of their organization’s future for a rental player? Stranger things have happened.
Chicago and Los Angeles have the overflow of youth to send back, while Boston has nine picks within the first two rounds of the 2010 and 2011 NHL Entry Drafts they could part with. Other teams will surely be in the mix (potentially the slumping Calgary Flames to give Jarome Iginla someone to be lined with perhaps?) but they may not have the tools to reel him in.
In the end, whether Kovalchuk decides to stay in Atlanta or force Waddell’s hand into dealing him at the deadline, fans can expect the announcement to be one of the biggest they’ve seen in years.