There's no Black Friday discount for a player as valuable as Ilya Kovalchuk, there is however a market for him even in the cap stricken NHL.
It is important to note the cost of Kovalchuk, a current cap hit of 6.4 million, as well as his trade value to the Atlanta Thrashers. Any trade involving Kovalchuk would likely involve a top three forward, a top nine forward, and a first round draft pick. This is a high price, however in most cases it is required simply to clear the cap space for him.
Here lie five teams that could afford and benefit from a trade for Kovalchuk at or before the deadline to help them get into the playoffs. None of these teams may see long term success with this trade or have a shot at resigning Ilya, they can however make the playoffs with his help.
At this point in the season 34 points is enough to secure a playoff spot in the west, but between a difficult conference and strong division the Predators slow offense will not be able to survive the length of the season. Kovalchuk could almost single handedly turn around their struggling offense, allowing them to creep into the top eight, something the franchise desperately needs.
Best of all, at the current time the Predators have the necessary cap room to add Ilya to their roster. The trade would likely involve a strong young forward such as Martan Erat and a gritty center like Joel Ward, as well as a first round pick. Thought the loss of Erat and Ward could disrupt the chemistry of the team, the addition of Kovalchuk will provide the scoring to play into the month of May.
Say it ain't so, the Islanders in the post season? Its more than possible if they gain some scoring and instruction for their youngsters. This team has a defense that can hold its own and hot goal-tending. All it needs is that veteran goal scoring presence that Kovalchuk can provide to break into the top eight of the competitive east.
Like Nashville, the Islanders are far enough below the cap to afford Ilya, but the cost will once again be high on the developing team. A young forward like Trent Hunter and a strong play maker like Frans Nielsen as well as the potentially valuable first round pick.
Another team currently in the playoff picture in the young season and again a team that has trouble scoring goals. The Coyotes have the cap space to pay for Kovalchuk, they do not, however have the funds. For this matter the cost may be a bit higher in order to come up with the funds to pay for Ilya.
A trade for Kovalchuk could cost the Coyotes a strong forward such as Matthew Lombardi and a two way player like Daniel Winnik, as well as that ever present first round pick. This team may have the most to gain from a playoff berth however, with the everliving possibility of new ownership and the potential of staying in Phoenix.
2. St. Louis Blues
The Blues have the weakest offense in the Western Conference. They also have the desire to mount the same campaign to the playoffs as the one that won the hearts of the the people of St. Louis just last year. The team would be able to thrive off of the raw goal scoring power of Kovalchuk, as well as the fire that he brings to the stadium.
The cost could be as high as forward Paul Kariya, who is on the last year of his contract, and versatile forward Jay McClement, as well as that first round pick.
This team was expected to do great things this year relieved of the injuries that plagued them last season, and they have fallen short. Kovalchuk could be all they need to turn the tide on a fading season and push deep into the playoffs.
1. Atlanta Thrashers
Though the cost is high for holding on to such a valuable trading piece, the result of keeping Kovalchuk could be a contract extension. There is no denying that the Thrashers have come full circle this year with an excellent goal-tending core and a strong young defense.
Atlanta is currently on pace to hit the playoffs running somewhere above the eighth spot. Should the Thrashers find their way in and perhaps even past the first round, Kovalchuk may be convinced that he is a part of a winning franchise and should not leave.
This is a huge gamble for the Thrashers. Should the season falter and Ilya leaves, they will have missed out on valuable players and draft picks that could have been obtained through a trade.
Sticking with the current team, however, can find the playoffs and the hearts of the people of Atlanta. One thing is certain, this year is make or break for this southern team.