Contract Negotiation Headline Hockey

What Will Become of Kovalchuk?

I have been lax with the articles lately, but there is one topic in the NHL world that has been staying close to the surface for some time now. Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers is in the final year of a 5 year, $32 million contract that was signed in October 2005 and will be a free agent on July 1st. Although Atlanta GM Don Waddell has been trying to sign Kovalchuk, reports say that the negotiations haven’t been going as well as hoped. It has been reported that Kovalchuk may be looking to join his countrymen Alex Ovechkin in the $100 million club. If this is so, there is a distinct possibility that Kovalchuk will be traded before the March 3rd trade deadline.

Kovalchuk is the Thrashers captain and has been the only great player in the franchise’s short history (Marian Hossa was good, but doesn’t have Kovalchuk’s tenure with the team). He is the franchise leader in all major statistical categories including goals, assists, points, and games played. Quite frankly, Ilya Kovalchuk IS the Atlanta Thrashers. If the Thrashers trade him, what motivation is there for fans to come watch the team?

As other commentators have written, Don Waddell is in a tough spot. He has six weeks to convince Kovalchuk to sign with the team before the trade deadline. At the same time, he has to very seriously consider trading the soul of his franchise, because to lose him for nothing would be disastrous. He was in a similar situation with Marian Hossa two years ago and managed to get a decent haul for him, but so far there have been no solid offers for Kovalchuk.

One event that will have an effect on the situation is the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next month. Kovalchuk is expected to be one of the stars of the Russian team along with Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Pavel Datsyuk. A good showing from Kovalchuk means that Waddell could ask for more in return. A poor showing may end up dropping his trade stock.

If he is traded, there won’t be much left for Thrashers fans to cheer for. The team has made only one playoff appearance (2006-07 when they won the Southeast Division) and is consistently in the draft lottery. To say there isn’t much hope for hockey in Atlanta is an understatement. While NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has stated that he does not want to relocate franchises, Ilya Kovalchuk leaving Atlanta could put the Thrashers on the road to relocation.

Much more will be written on this over the next month. Kovalchuk is one of the top talents in the NHL and has achieved that status with little offensive help while in Atlanta. There have to be coaches and GMs out there salivating at the thought of pairing him with a good set up man (a reunion with Marc Savard in Boston perhaps?) Only time will tell, but it certainly seems as though Ilya Kovalchuk’s days in Atlanta are numbered.

9 replies on “What Will Become of Kovalchuk?”

Lot of rumors floating around in the Chicago media that the Hawks are targeting him. Personally, I don’t want to see it happen. Although he’s probably one of the top-three pure goal scorers in the league, even Roenick recently stated on a ESPN Chicago morning talk show that he’s a pre-madonna. While he’d only be a rental for the Hawks, I just don’t want to see any of their chemistry being messed with at this point.

Could the Thrashers try to pull something similar to what Florida did with Bouwmeester last June? I can see them waiting until the trade deadline and seeing where they are in the playoff hunt. If it looks like the have a shot (they are only 3 points back now and Boston is dropping like a rock), they will keep him and try a trade for free agent rights before July 1. If they are far back (8-10 points), I think it will be a fire sale. Of course the free agency deadline scenario won’t get them as much in return, but at least it wouldn’t completely destroy their playoff chances (assuming they are in the hunt).

Kovalchuk actually goes hard and puts his body on the line though, he competes 100% most of the time. He’s not nearly as big of a pre madonna as Kane. I can’t see him going to Chicago, anyways. I heard he might be heading to Long Island, that would be a nice fit.

The idea that Atlanta could possibly be contracted or re located because they do not re-sign Kovalchuk is a bit far fetched.If Phoenix was not re-located, for far larger transgressions (lack of attendance, competitiveness, etc.) Quite simply Gary Betteman will never acknowledge his mistake in expanding into the US Sun belt. It is one of the all time follies in sports history. And it is attributable to Gary Betteman’s obsession with making Hockey more palpable to Americans. For as long as he is comissioner none of those teams will be moved or contracted.

Thanks for the hockey article Mr.Furey, we need more.

I think Kovalchuk’s agent will try to leverage his value with a deal from the KHL. Most teams are afraid to trade for him because at the end of this season he can just go back to Russia, where he would get a monster contract..

Kovalchuk was quoted as saying he doesn’t play for money and that his reason for playing is to win a stanley cup and for the prestige. He also commented on Radulov leaving, saying that he had a reason to leave only because he was better than the majority of the team and was not receiving adequate playing time. It’s safe to say Kovalchuk probably isn’t KHL bound.

I can’t realistically see him going to the KHL either. The rumblings seem to be the Los Angeles might try to look for him. They are a team on the rise having just finished a 5 game roadtrip with 5 wins. They also have the pieces that could make this type of deal happen. He doesn’t have Ovechkin’s personality but he could be the big draw that the Kings haven’t had since Gretzky.

In seven years in the NHL he’s played in a whopping 4 playoff games. I think if his priority was to win cups he would have asked to get out of Atlanta long ago. who knows, should be interesting to see what happens.

Well, he has a lot of years ahead of him and probably realizes that would be a foolish decision this early in his career. Don’t you think a few years ago it’d be a little premature to demand a trade from a team that is built around you? By playing out his contract and not demanding a trade, there are likely more teams interested than there would of been had he demanded for a trade and had that play out for who knows how long.

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