Ilya Kovalchuk: The Best Way To Help the Chicago Blackhawks Salary Cap?

Michael WagnerSenior Analyst IJanuary 5, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 28:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Atlanta Thrashers skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 28, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Thrashers 3-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Yesterday fellow Chicago Blackhawks featured columnist Tab Bamford provided an article suggesting that the Blackhawks might have Atlanta Thrashers star wing Ilya Kovalchuk on their radar as a rental player.

Although columnists such as ESPN's Pierre Lebrun have a said that this has all been pure speculation and that the 'Hawks have not yet contacted the Thrashers about Kovalchuk it is still an interesting proposition.

The Blackhawks seem to have the perfect pieces to accommodate at trade with the Thrashers with quality young NHLers such as Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Cam Barker and Andrew Ladd to offer up for Kovalchuk. 

All the players mentioned are either under contract to affordable deals or will still be under team control after the season.

Now it is true the 'Hawks likely have the pieces to make a trade for Kovalchuk btu would they really risk the current team chemistry they possess for a one year rental player?

Well, it depends on what the Blackhawks really want to do with the players they need to move to get under the cap.

Do they want to put all their chips to the center of the table this season, go get Kovalchuk and hope that with his addition they would be propelled far about teams like the Penguins or Shark.

Or do they trade players like Versteeg or Barker or whoever you like for prospects and picks and rebuild the minor league system. 

Recently it was reported Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal that the Colorado Avalanche will make a big push during the offseason to try and acquire Kris Versteeg, possibly offering up top defensive prospect Kevin Shattenkirk.

But which route will the Blackhawks likely take?

Well I'm not sure that it is clear right now but for a team now know for making big splashes I wouldn't be surprised to see the 'Hawks make a big play for Kovalchuk at the trade deadline.

As a Blackhawks team with the likes of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Ilya Kovalchuk might be unstoppable offensively and could make them strong Stanley Cup favorites.

Even though 'Hawks might like to add a super star talent like Ilya Kovalchuk to their lineup it seems like the Thrashers will do most everything possible to retain their star winger. 

So by default the Blackhawks might need to move player just for high level prospect or picks, which when you think about it might be the best way to go.

Although the Blackhawks are known as a great young team they are also a team that lacks a lot of high quality depth amongst their prospects. 

According to Hockey's Future the Blackhawks prospects are rated 24th out of 30 organizations and with another high finish in the NHL standings likely they will again not have picks in the 2010 NHL Draft to restock their minor league system.

Making a Versteeg for Shattenkirk trade might not help the NHL squad right now but it at least provides the 'Hawks a top prospect to their system. 

I would love to add Kovalchuk to the Blackhawks lineup and match him up with former teammate Marian Hossa but realistically I think the Thrashers will continue to try to get him resigned and wait until the NHL draft to trade him.

So as much as I and many 'Hawks fans would like to add Kovalchuk to the roster, the Blackhawks might have to resign themselves to making trades for prospects after the season. 

Which actually might not be such a bad thing especially if the Blackhawks are able to add players at the talent level of Shattenkirk. 

It will be interesting to see what the 'Hawks will do with their cap situation and you can bet that rumors will continue to surface as we inch closer to the NHL trade deadline and eventually the 2010 NHL draft.