Atlanta Thrashers to the Rest of the NHL: Don't Bother with Ilya Kovalchuk
The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching. The deadline, which is Mar. 3 this year, is the busiest time of the NHL season and teams are scurrying to try to add that extra piece that will bring them to the promise land.
Some teams have benefited greatly from this, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, who added Marian Hossa at the deadline two years ago, helping them make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they would lose to the Detroit Red Wings.
The biggest name this year is Ilya Kovalchuk. The Atlanta Thrashers' right winger has been at the center of trade rumors all year long. Kovalchuk is in the final year of his contract and is most likely not going to re-sign with the Thrashers.
Thrashers GM Don Waddell has made it clear that he is looking to move Kovalchuk and is going to do so by the end of this weekend. Teams that are in the mix right now are the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers.
Waddell has already said that he wants at least a top-six forward, a top-four defensemen, and a high-end draft pick. For most teams, that's a pretty steep price for a player who is just going to be a rental and that is exactly why teams shouldn't even bother going after him.
Kovalchuk is in the final year of his deal and the team that does end up signing him will have to negotiate a new contract or risk losing him when he enters free agency. Kovalchuk has already stated he wants to make at least $11 million, if not $12 million, a year. He also wants his deal to be a long-term deal, in the range of what Marian Hossa and Marc Savard have received.
There aren't many teams out there that could possibly afford to take on Kovalchuk's contract if they did offer him that much money per year. With the salary cap as low as it is teams would have to dump some of their better players which in the end would hurt their team more than it would help by adding Kovi.
I'm sure there are some teams that think they can somehow negotiate Kovalchuk down to a little less but Atlanta has tried this already on more than one occasion. Their latest offer was $10 million a year over a span of thee, five, or seven years, which Kovalchuk turned down. If a team does want to give him what he wants they will be committing suicide and ruin their team for years to come.
Another thing teams should look at is Kovalchuk's lack of two-way play. In his eight years in the league, Kovalchuk has yet to post a positive plus/minus. This year, he has a plus one, but the year is far from done. Aside from this year his best was a minus two with is worst being minus 24.
Kovalchuk has played in Atlanta his whole career and that has had an effect. The Thrashers haven't had the best of teams while he has been there but it is no excuse to never have a positive plus/minus. Buyer beware Kovalchuk will not help on the defensive end and defense is very important come playoff time.
One more thing teams have to look at is the fact that Kovalchuk is probably not going to end up signing with the team that trades for him. He will just become a rental player for a couple of months and then leave to go to another team or possibly even the NHL.
Rumors have been going around that some teams in the KHL are ready to offer Kovalchuk a contract of $12 million a year which is exactly what he is looking for. It would not shock me at all if he ends up over in Russia. For starters he is from Russia and would love to play close to home.
Secondly, he would become an instant star and would be getting payed a pretty penny. The NHL would be wise to do their best to keep Kovalchuk in the league but who knows if he'll end up staying.
So for all those teams and all those fans who were hoping to see Ilya Kovalchuk in their team’s colors after Mar. 3 just think is it really worth it?
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