Any idea of Ilya Kovalchuk leaving Atlanta has sportswriters screaming, "Impossible!" at the top of their lungs. It seems that, in their world, the Thrashers would simply stop existing, both to fans and to the NHL.
True, Kovalchuk is the face of that franchise, and, to be honest, he's the only face. However, a trade with the Penguins could change both teams' fortunes tremendously.
Let's say, for example, the Penguins want to land both Kovalchuk and Colby Armstrong. In return, they have to pump new life into Atlanta. How about a young defenseman (Kris Letang), a skilled veteran (Petr Sykora), and a promising up-and-comer (Wallace/Lovejoy/Minard)?
Now the Thrashers would have Sykora, Letang, Erik Christensen, and Angelo Esposito coming soon, and maybe another solid young player? Lovejoy may be the way to go for the Pens, as he has a few games of NHL experience under his belt, and, really, the Thrashers need defensemen badly.
That's how you build an NHL team—from the back to the front. And they already have a solid one-two punch in net with Lehtonen and Hedberg. How could you say after that move that the Thrashers would cease to be?
As for the Penguins, now you're looking at a Kovalchuk/Crosby/Armstrong first line, a Pascal Dupuis/Evgeni Malkin/Miroslav Satan second line, a Matt Cooke/Jordan Staal/Tyler Kennedy third line, and a Eric Godard/Maxime Talbot/Ruslan Fedetenko fourth line, with Sergei Gonchar, Ryan Whitney, Alex Goligoski, Phillippe Boucher, Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik, and Mark Eaton to choose from on defense.
And knowing Therrien's creativity, you may see Talbot move up, Kovalchuk and Malkin work together, and who knows what else? Crosby would get two pieces in one. A confidence boost and a scoring winger.
Would Kovalchuk be a rental player? Possibly. But after last year, when he said his team had to make the playoffs this year, and they clearly aren't, it seems to me like he wants a chance to be competitive year after year.
With a roster like that, how could you say they wouldn't be? Come on, Shero! Pull off another fast one!