Ilya Kovalchuk leads the Thrashers with 42 points in 33 games this season. (Getty Images)
Two years ago the Atlanta Thrashers, unable to re-sign impending unrestricted free agent winger Marian Hossa, shocked the hockey world by shipping him to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the Thrashers possibly facing the same scenario with Ilya Kovalchuk by the March 2010 trade deadline could the Penguins pull off such a daring move again?
Probably not, according to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, pointing out this time Penguins management would have to overhaul their roster in order to part with the assets needed to land Kovalchuk.
Given how well the defending champion Penguins – their anemic power play aside – have performed this season, management will probably tweak their roster by the deadline rather than make a bold move.
Another team might be willing to part with what should be a hefty asking price for Kovalchuk should the Thrashers decide to move him by the deadline, but the betting here is he won’t be moved if Atlanta is still in the playoff chase by March 3, regardless of his contract status.
Don’t think so? Remember, most pundits last year were sure the Florida Panthers would trade star defenseman and impending UFA Jay Bouwmeester at the trade deadline, but with the club still in the race for the 2009 playoffs they held onto him.
The Thrashers will likely do the same with Kovalchuk and then move him during June’s draft weekend if they cannot get him under contract prior to July 1.
• With Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Ian White showing steady improvement this season he’ll be in line for a significant raise this summer as a restricted free agent.
That’s led to speculation GM Brian Burke might have to move Tomas Kaberle to free up the cap space to re-sign White.
Burke has repeatedly said he won’t ask Kaberle to waive his no-movement clause under any circumstance, but there are two scenarios under which the Leafs GM could move Kaberle without his permission.
One would be if Kaberle were to request a trade, the other would be if the Leafs fail to make the playoffs, as that would trigger a two-month window in Kaberle’s contract from June to August whereby Burke could trade him anywhere.
Burke attempted to use that window of opportunity during the June 2009 draft in his unsuccessful effort to peddle Kaberle to Boston for Phil Kessel, so don’t be surprised if he goes the same route again this summer if the Leafs miss the 2010 playoffs.
• The New York Post believes a key reason for the Rangers’ recent struggles is their lack of big, physical players, calling it “imperative” for GM Glen Sather to acquire those big bodies even at the expense of sacrificing some of the skill level coach John Tortorella covets in his players.
Easier said than done for Sather, who saddled himself with too many expensive, slumping players, two of which are Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik, whom the Ottawa Sun claimed were available, but currently unappealing to rival teams.
To land skilled physical players would cost Sather affordable youngsters like Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan or Michael Del Zotto, so it appears he’s stuck with his current lineup for better or worse for the remainder of the season.
• Washington Capitals call-up netminder Michal Neuvirth recently garnered recognition for his strong performance filling in for the injured Semyon Varlamov.
The Washington Times reported Neuvirth could have a future backing up Varlamov next season, but also suggested the possibility he might attract interest later this season from rival clubs seeking goaltending depth.
While it’s possible Neuvirth could be packaged in a deal to land some veteran depth elsewhere on the Capitals roster their recent acquisition of winger Jason Chimera from Columbus could be their most significant move between now and the March trade deadline.
With Jose Theodore in the final year of his contract the Caps might go with Varlamov and Neuvirth as their tandem next season.
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.