Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Garrioch Says Kovalchuk Trade Talk Heating Up

Thrashers Prospect Annex pointed me to what Bruce Garroich wrote on Sunday:

"Multiple NHL sources told Sun Media yesterday that Thrashers GM Don Waddell has held serious talks with several teams about the possibility of moving the high-scoring winger, who makes $7.5 million (all terms US) and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2009-10 season."

Garroich points to Montreal as a possible trading partner--one that has some expiring contracts which could be dealt to free up cap room and a team that has a bevy of young prospects which the Thrashers would want as part of a major rebuilding process. Personally, I wouldn't be shocked if Edmonton was another possible partner. They have a lot of young talent and they have struggled to score so far this season.

Before we get into the thinking about who could be potentially be traded to Atlanta in a blockbuster deal, let's take a moment to look a hypothetical roster of the 2010 Thrashers and their ages. I'm also going to assume that without Kovalchuk they finish last and get Tavares.

Hypothetical 2010 Atlanta Thrashers
Sterling 26-Tavares 20-Little 22
Machacek 22-Esposito 21-
J. Albert 21
LaVallee 24-Holzafel 22-Armstrong 27
Thorburn 27-Slater 27-
Crabb 27
Christensen 26

Bogosian 20-Hainsey 29
Enstrom 25-
Kulda 22
Zubarev 23-Valabik 24
Oystrick 27

Pavelec 22-Lehtonen 26

Of course not all those prospects are going to become NHL players. But I did this just as a sort of thought experiment to see what the core would look like just by itself. Now to this core you would add the NHL players that would come as part of a Kovalchuk trade (perhaps Chris Higgins and McDonagh or the Koististyn brothers) and the draft picks as well. If the Thrashers also trade Lehtonen and keep Pavelec and Hedberg as their goaltending duo, then you can add another player or pick there.

Furthermore, there would be free agent additions added in the summer of 2009 or summer of 2010. If the NHL salary cap stays flat (which looks increasingly likely) or even declines the Thrashers will have more cap room than nearly any other NHL club. Some free agents might come here simply because Atlanta is in a position to offer them more money.

Would that make the 2010 Thrashers a cup contender? The future is hard to tell but moving Kovalchuk and Lehtonen for more young talent would broaden the base of inexpensive young talent (see Chicago Blackhawks) to which you could add a couple of pricey free agents and suddenly you could have a very impressive squad playing in Philips Arena.

Finally, at the end of his column he makes this less than surprising comment:

"The Thrashers are expected to move D Mathieu Schneider by the March 4 trade deadline. It's believed Waddell has been getting plenty of calls."

If the Thrashers play their cards right they could engage in a genuine rebuild and get quite a haul by dealing Kovalchuk, Lehtonen and Schneider this year. As I've said before, my #1 priority is seeing a Stanley Cup contender in Atlanta. This team will never be able to afford the cap maximum--so any shot at the Cup requires assembling a young squad of players that can contend before too many of the players get expensive. You have to get the maximum return on your investment in player payroll and young talent provides the best route to contending.


  • Puck Daddy had a good point: What has Don Waddell done in the past to make any of us believe he will be able to get the most from trading Kovalchuk? Let's just hope Montreal and Edmonton have enough good, young players that it's almost impossible for Waddell to screw it up. I doubt it though.

    By Anonymous Jay, at 8:45 AM  

  • Without Kovalchuk the Atlanta Thrashers are going to be a hard sell. I'm already worried that this team is on borrowed time in Atlanta.

    By Blogger Andrew, at 9:46 AM  

  • Hi
    My name is Shaan Yusuf and I own and operate TheHockeyFamily podcast. Just wanted to say I enjoy reading your blogs and actually posted a link on our website

    By Blogger THF Admin, at 11:15 AM  

  • Falconer: good points here. I agree that trading Kovy now could make sense for the long term health of the franchise. Just a couple of thoughts:

    1. There would likely be a mini-revolt among some fans. It would reinforce the perception - right or wrong - that stars don't want to play here, hockey can't work here, blah blah etc. It could be a 'last straw' type of thing for a disgusted fan base (especially among casual types).

    2. You know the definition of insanity: trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting new results. My concern is entrusting *another* rebuilding process to Don Waddell and his scouting/development regime. After 10 years, it's pretty plain that this group's approach is fundamentally - and perhaps fatally - flawed. Don is a nice guy and I really want him to succeed, but hockey is competitive business.

    Can we trust this administration to a) maximize the return for Kovy, b) draft the right players with additional picks, and c) develop the players they draft?

    Keep up the good work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:45 AM  

  • Yeah I see more bad things than good happening with a Kovalchuk trade. I hope they make every effort to keep him -- naming him the captain may help.

    Why move Schneider? Do we have too many defensive players or is he too expensive or has he not been performing?

    By Blogger Thrashers Recaps, at 1:03 PM  

  • Recaps,

    When the Thrashers traded for Schneider at the beginning of the season, the intent was to pick up a veteran who would put them over the cap minimum as well as be available to mentor some of their younger defenseman and (assuming they are out of the playoff race come February) trade him to a contender at the deadline for long term pieces. It was a great move because it helps both in the short term and long term.

    By Blogger Andrew, at 10:36 AM  

  • I have major qualms about all this Kovy trade talk. Firstly, there has not been one reputable source I've seen come out and say there are rumblings - only Garrioch and Eklund have mentioned "talks" going on and neither one of those guys have great track-records on speculative matters. Everyone else talks about it as something the club *should* do versus something the club is *planning* or *trying* to do.

    Secondly, Kovy has been most adamant about not requesting a trade, even going so far as to say he doesn't want to be traded. While players often choose to be politic when making statements to the press, Kovy has been very specific with his comments, even directly making a statement to Craig Custance that he is not Marian Hossa. So why trade your best player, your franchise player, when he still has more than a year and a half left on his contract and is not dropping hints? This club has struggled so much trying to get top-tier players to sign here, yet we already possess one who actually *wants* to be here, and we're supposed to trade that away?

    Granted Kovy could bring a solid return in a trade but it will not get us another player like him. At best we *might* get a top-line player who isn't working out where he currently is, but we would still be in the same position of having one top-line forward with little to no top-line support. How does that improve anything?

    We have other assets we could move at the deadline this season beyond even just Schneider. Williams, Reasoner - those guys could be valuable commodities that are soon to be UFA again anyway. We may get Tavares in the draft this season. Esposito may be ready to play in the NHL next season. We might well be able to make some good signings this off-season, as Falconer points out, just by default of being one of the few clubs with cap space. In short, this team has some avenues for significant roster improvement that do not require trading away Ilya Kovalchuk. I would pursue all of those first and if by this time next season we still need more key pieces, have not drastically improved, and Kovy is balking hard at signing a new contract, *then* consider trading him.

    By Anonymous Sara, at 6:52 PM  

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