Start Spreading The News: Calgary Flames In Kovalchuk Sweepstakes

Steve McSweenSenior Analyst IJanuary 22, 2010

Not to say I told you so, but today TSN's Bob McKenzie reported that the Atlanta Thrashers are indeed going to trade Ilya Kovalchuk and that Chicago and Calgary are the top two teams in the mix.

It's probably no big surprise that Kovalchuk is going to be dealt considering he is a free agent at season's end and Atlanta GM Don Waddell didn't look like he was going to be able to sign him.

The writing was on the wall. It was about as obvious as the ending of a Matthew McConaughey movie...he gets the girl.

And while many will believe any package offered by Calgary wouldn't be enough to acquire a prolific goal scorer like Ilya Kovalchuk, really what does Waddell expect when teams know they can wait until July and get him without taking a player of significance off their roster.

Though the Blackhawks could offer a deal as good as the Flames, with their current cap situation it is unlikely they would be able to resign Kovalchuk to a long term deal. With players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa already on their roster why would they be looking at acquiring him in the first place, they don't have a problem scoring goals. If anything they could use a goalie with playoff experience.

Calgary, on the other hand, scores about as much as Neil Patrick Harris at the Playboy Mansion. Which is a big reason they are 1-7-1 in their last nine games, and grasping on to the last playoff spot in the Western Conference by the skin of their teeth.

Let's face it, without a bold deal to acquire Ilya Kovalchuk or a player like him the Flames are either going out in the first round once again this season, or worse yet, not even gonna make the dance.

Dion Phaneuf's name has been circulating around the media in recent weeks, although he denied the rumour he requested a trade, there have been reports of shouting matches between he and coach Brent Sutter. And in the Flames recent nine game slide he has put up just two assists and been -5, numbers of a player that could use a change of address.

It is obvious that a deal involving Kovalchuk is going to involve the struggling defenseman, but does that mean soon-to-be free agent Rene Bourque may go as well, afterall then there would be no squabbling over who gets to wear No. 17.

Bringing a player in of Ilya Kovalchuk's capabilities would give the Calgary Flames a dynamic they haven't seen since the days of Theoren Fleury, he is a threat to score every time he touches the puck, and at 26 he is heading into the peak of his career.

As I stated earlier Waddell isn't going to get a lot from NHL GM's that know they could have Kovalchuk come July, so acquiring a player like 24-year-old Dion Phaneuf should be intriguing.

I mean c'mon, he was a finalist for the Norris trophy just a few years back, he is going to be a great defensman one just doesn't seem to be happening in Calgary for whatever the reason.

We as wannabe hockey columnist can only speculate who could be involved, and yes when you throw enough crap out there something could come of it, but this deal makes a lot of sense from both parties. Especially if Calgary is willing to give up a package that could include some youngsters like Mikael Backlund and Greg Nemisz to go along with Phaneuf.

That being said, if the Flames are indeed willing to give up a big part of their future for the Russian sniper, they had better make plans to lock him up long term. Which by moving Phaneuf, and letting Olli Jokinen walk come July 1st is very possible.

Darryl Sutter has tried over the past few years to solve Calgary's lack of scoring, but has never been able to acquire a bona fide 50-goal scorer, this is his chance. And since they are about as rare as a skinny contestant on The Biggest Loser , he had better take it.

If Sutter is hesitant at all it could cost him a playoff spot, or worse yet his job, he may just need to listen to a quote from Frank Scully, "Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?" Otherwise this team is going to keep dropping in the standings, where the only fruit they can hope to taste is a number one pick that most likely is going to go to their Alberta cousins in Edmonton.