Opinion: Carter & Giroux For Kovalchuk Makes No Sense For The Flyers

RonnybrookCorrespondent IDecember 22, 2009

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 19:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Atlanta Thrashers against the Boston Bruins at Philips Arena on November 19, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I have no doubt that the Atlanta Thrashers are actively (even desperately) seeking a trade for LW sniper Ilya Kovalchuck.

With negotiations for re-signing Kovalchuk to a long-term deal hitting a “snag,” Thrashers GM Don Waddell must surely be looking for an exit strategy if his LW super star cannot be signed in the coming weeks.

To delay, at this point, would be to Atlanta's peril.

After all, the Thrashers need to look no further than their Southeast Division rivals in the Florida Panthers to see how disastrous a prolonged negotiation can play out with a player who will undoubtedly be the most sought-after free agent in the 2010 UFA market.

Jay Bouwmeester. Remember him?

The Panthers could not get Bouwmeester signed to a long-term extension last season as the trade deadline approached, then found themselves in a weakened position to negotiate a trade when the low-ball offers came pouring in at the deadline.

Ultimately, the Panthers held onto Bouwmeester in hopes of making the playoffs (they didn’t) and when they could not arrive at an off-season deal to keep Bouwmeester in Florida as the UFA signing period approached, the best return they could find was to trade Jay Bo’s rights to Calgary for Jordan Leopold (now on his fifth team) and a third round pick—which is akin to the magic beans transaction they made in 2006, trading Roberto Luongo under similar circumstances for a reeling Todd Bertuzzi, and spare parts Bryan Allen and Alex Auld.

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So when you hear the Flyers are kicking the tires on Ilya Kovalchuk, as reported last night by 610 WIP’s Brian Startare, you would have to assume the Thrashers would be actively listening to any deal that includes young players with a boatload of potential, even if it is not manifesting this season.

Startare is reporting the negotiations begin with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux, which doesn’t make a lick of sense.

For one, Jeff Carter has one year remaining on his contract which pays him $5 million annually through 2011.

Kovalchuk is reportedly seeking a 10-year deal that will pay him $11 million annually.

The Flyers are already committed to six size-able contracts (with no-trade and no movement clauses) through next season and far beyond in Mike Richards ($5.75 million/10 years), Daniel Briere ($6.5 million/5 years), Simon Gagne ($5.25 million/1 year), Scott Hartnell ($4.2 million/3 years), Kimmo Timonen ($6.33 million/3 years) and Chris Pronger ($4.92 million/6 years).

That’s $33 million committed to six players next year, and $27.7 million committed to five players in 2011-2012 and beyond after Gagne’s contract expires next season.

In what fantasy world can you add $11 million to a salary structure and expect to pay the remaining 12 skaters and two goalies on your roster with the $15-$19 million that will be left over, depending on how much the salary cap expands or contracts from season to season? it doesn’t add up.

Out of all of those long term contracts, Mike Richards is the ONLY player that can be moved, by virtue of the fact that his NTC clause doesn’t kick in until 2012. Thank God for small favors.

Carter makes NO sense in this deal.

Right now, he has no long-term impact on the Flyers future salary structure, and the fact that he’s having a poor season will do nothing to strengthen his bargaining position when it’s time for him to sign an RFA extension in 2011.

That’s not to say Carter won’t be moved in some other deal if the Flyers start from scratch and rebuild the team.

But for the Flyers to take on a contact the magnitude of what Kovalchuk will command on the open market, they will have to shed a big-money, long-term contract.

With Briere, Hartnell, Gagne, Timonen, and Pronger all shielded by no-trade and no-movement clauses, Richards is literally the ONLY option on the table at this point.

A deal of this magnitude would need to be a blockbuster, simply by virtue of the fact that the Flyers would need to shed salary to fit Kovalchuk into their salary structure.

Expect Flyers wingers, defensemen, and a goalie to be included in the deal if it somehow materialized, and don’t be surprised if one of Atlanta’s surplus of goaltenders comes back in the deal.

None of this is based on insider knowledge.

You don’t have to be an insider to look at the math on Flyers salary structure to see there is no way the Flyers could carry that many monolithic contracts, and add another $11 million allotted to a single player.

If Carter does somehow go to Atlanta, you can rest assured Richards will be leaving town in another deal, because the reality of the Flyers cap situation says there is no way this team can add another big-money long-term deal without Richards leaving town.

For my daily hockey thoughts, visit the Ronnybrook blog.


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