Ilya Kovalchuk has been told by Thrashers GM Don Waddell to expect a move in a matter of days. (Getty Images)
Ilya Kovalchuk’s days as a Thrasher appear to be numbered as GM Don Waddell informed the winger Wednesday to expect a trade in a matter of days.
No specific destination was mentioned, but TSN noted the Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers were believed to have expressed interest in Kovalchuk.
It’s uncertain what Waddell’s specific asking price is for the talented winger, but it’s believed he wants a couple of good players to help keep his team in this year’s playoff chase in addition to perhaps a first round pick and/or a couple quality prospects.
A quick synopsis of the teams believed to be in the hunt:
- The Bruins aren’t considered amongst the favorites to land Kovalchuk.
- Thrashers management was recently seen scouting the Devils and their American League farm team.
- The asking price for Kovy is currently considered too steep for the Flyers, who’d have to free up considerable cap space just to afford him as a rental player.
- The Kings appear the logical destination given their cap space, assets and willingness to make a major move, but they continue to balk at the return sought by Waddell.
- The Blackhawks appear out of it as their management doesn’t wish to upset team chemistry at the present time, while Canucks GM Mike Gillis’ unwillingness to part with picks and prospects for rental players could take them out of the picture.
- While there’s rampant speculation over the Flames’ next move, they’re reportedly out of the running for Kovalchuk. The Rangers, meanwhile, might consider restraint this time around as they’re likely unwilling to part with young talents Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky or Ryan Callahan.
It remains to be seen where Kovalchuk goes, but Waddell’s unwillingness to allow interested teams to talk contract with the Russian’s agent will certainly limit the market. Most would likely find his salary demands – reportedly the current cap maximum of $11.3 million per season for a 10- to 12-year term – to be out of their price range.
Kovalchuk’s a desirable commodity, but as a rental player he would be an expensive short-term gamble.
• Sunday’s shocking blockbuster trade that saw Dion Phaneuf shipped by the Calgary Flames to the Toronto Maple Leafs has fans and pundits wondering what other moves could be in store for the two clubs.
All-star defenseman Tomas Kaberle and pending unrestricted free agents Alexei Ponikarovsky and Lee Stempniak remain a hot topic in the Toronto rumor mill.
The question has already been raised if Kaberle, who has one more year remaining on his current contract, would waive his no-trade clause if a Stanley Cup contender came calling for his services.
Kaberle continues to insist he wants to remain a Leaf and GM Brian Burke keeps saying he won’t ask the blueliner to waive his clause, so barring a change of heart on Kaberle’s part he’ll at least finish this season in Toronto.
However, the off-season is another matter as Kaberle’s movement clause won’t be in effect from June to August (assuming the Leafs don’t make the playoffs), giving Burke a couple of months to shop the veteran defenseman for some offensive depth.
• Flames GM Darryl Sutter, meanwhile, wasn’t done dealing following the Phaneuf trade, shipping forwards Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the Rangers for Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins.
That deal led to suggestions Sutter is casting for bigger fish like Kovalchuk, Carolina’s Ray Whitney or possibly former Flame Alex Tanguay.
The problem is those players are wingers – which the Flames have plenty of – and wouldn’t address their real need for a true first-line center.
The Calgary Sun dismissed the notion of pursuing Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier, Carolina’s Eric Staal or Dallas’ Brad Richards, suggesting the Stars’ Mike Ribeiro or Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec as more viable options.
Montreal won’t move Plekanec while they’re still in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff chase. Ribeiro might be available if the Stars intend on cutting costs, but they won’t just give him away as it’s believed they’re seeking a top-pairing defenseman.
• The slumping Bruins are not only believed to be in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes, but are also looking at other potential moves.
TSN reported the Bruins have let it be known right winger Michael Ryder is available. Coming off a 27-goal, 53-point performance last season, Ryder’s numbers have declined considerably as he’s on pace for 18 goals and 30 points.
It’s also believed GM Peter Chiarelli is interested in acquiring Keith Tkachuk from the St. Louis Blues. Chiarelli apparently had a deal in place for Tkachuk at last season’s deadline, but it fell through.
• Reports out of Columbus suggest the Blue Jackets might not be able to re-sign rugged left winger Raffi Torres, making it even more likely he’ll be on the trade block in the coming days.
Torres is bound to attract considerable attention amongst playoff contenders. The Columbus Dispatch claimed the Penguins, Capitals and Rangers have interest.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.