The Atlanta Thrashers are a struggling franchise and a losing team. They are in the process of a slow, arduous rebuilding phase, and don't have a realistic chance of making the playoffs in the next few seasons. Since they aren't ready to win anytime soon, they need to trade their most valuable asset, Ilya Kovalchuk.
The prized sniper would return a tremendous yield for the Thrashers if he were dealt. He would certainly bring in return a first round pick and multiple blue chip prospects. The reason why he needs to be traded this season is because his trade value is at his highest.
There are plenty of teams in contention that would be seething to acquire a player of Kovalchuk's caliber. Especially because there isn't any first line offensive talent that is going to be available at the trade deadline this year.
It should be noted that although Marian Gaborik will most likely be dealt, he is not going to be heavily sought after due to his mid-season surgery.
The main reason why Kovalchuk's trade value is at its highest right now, is that he still has another year remaining on his contract. This makes him much more desirable and valuable for the teams interested, because he would be more than just a rental player.
The Thrashers need to be realistic, Kovalchuk is not going to re-sign with the club. They won't be able to bring in the talent needed through free agency this summer for him to feel like they will be contenders next season.
The main reason being very simple, Atlanta is not a very desirable place for players to sign with. Although the Thrashers have plenty of cap space, they won't be able to significantly improve through free agency. This summers most valuable free agents Marian Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg, and Marian Gaborik wouldn't even consider signing in the ATL regardless of how much money they get thrown their way. Also, the Thrashers will most likely have to overpay free agents to join the club. They need to rebuild from within to succeed.
The bottom line is that Ilya Kovalchuk is not going to be a piece of Atlanta's future. He is not going to re-sign with the club and the team needs to let their franchise player go this year and look ahead. They need to cut their losses this season and increase their chances of acquiring John Tavares or Victor Hedman in the upcoming draft.
To the Thrashers GM Don Waddell: It's time to make a move.
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