After yesterdays rumor that the Islanders would be in the running for Atlanta's sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, I wanted to do some research to see if there really could be any validity to it. Turns out, as of today, my answer is false. I do not believe the Islanders will pursue Kovalchuk now. However, if certain things happen before now and March 3rd, the Islanders would be very close to being trading partners. Please allow me to explain.
According to yesterdays NY Post report, the Islanders have the cap space and prospects to make a trade for Kovalchuk, improving both the the on-ice product and improving the overall value of the team should Charles Wang want to sell the team. It was also stated that Kovalchuk would like to remain with the Thrashers for the rest of his career. While Newsday reported that the Islanders have a plan in store, it does not however, include Kovalchuk. Newsday also reported that according to their source, a deal like that is "slim to none."
So why is Kovalchuk available in the first place? When first doing research for this article, it was believed that he was asking for 12 years, 120 million dollars. That's 10 million per year. After doing some extra reading, the asking price right now seems to be at 11 million dollars. The problem here is that Atlanta ownership may not be able to afford such a high and lengthy contract. With attendance very low this year, ownership is still debating whether or not to resign their franchise player.
So assume for the moment that Garth Snow is just going to be quiet, deny rumors, and we're going to once again speculate that if the Islanders are in the hunt for Kovalchuk, what other teams would be battling for his services? From what I could read from it appears that Boston, LA, Chicago, Detroit, and Vancouver are all in the mix. Now let's bring in reality to get rid of some rumored teams. Chicago is on top in the Western Conference and just signed a guy by the name of Hossa during last summer, chemistry is good, so scratch off Chicago. Detroit will never go after a rental like Kovalchuk and when Detroit begins to get players back will be a force as a 7th or 8th seed. I'm sorry Vancouver fans, but every time a big player is mentioned in rumors your team is always mentioned, so for now I'm not sold on the Canucks.
This leaves us with the LA Kings, Boston Bruins and the Islanders. If you're Don Waddell who would you rather trade with right now? The Kings have players that Waddell would want, can still have Atlanta win now and resign all, if any, to new affordable contracts and still be able to build the team in the off-season. Or perhaps Waddell should look into the Boston Bruins. I'm sure getting a decent player and a prospect and say Toronto's first round pick could be enough to entice Waddell. Imagine Atlanta having Taylor Hall join the likes of Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Enstrom, Little, Peverley and even Antropov. I would not feel sorry for Atlanta then.
But that folks is the Islanders problem when trying to acquire someone like Kovalchuk. They don't/won't give up certain players, because they don't have enough of them yet, nor do they have a high draft pick this year. So why am I even including the Islanders in this mix for Kovulchuk? Two words: Ryan Smyth. In 2007 the Islanders traded there first round pick in 2007, Robert Nilsson and Ryan O'Marra for Ryan Smyth, a last second deadline deal that gave Garth Snow a big pat on the back and instantly gave the Islanders credibility. If deals with LA and Boston don't pan out, and the deadline is near, don't be surprised if the Islanders are patiently waiting for Atlanta to call. But make no mistake, the Olympic trade freeze is from February 12th-28th. If Kovalchuk is not traded and/or Atlanta is out of the playoff race, the Islanders should be in the race for him, and should not have to be giving up the farm.
My final thought is this, if Atlanta is still in the playoff hunt, Kovalchuk will not be traded.....period. The Islanders right now have been winning more often and have the depth to go deep into the playoff race. They will need to make a few moves, but they don't need to make a splash like Kovalchuk to get into the playoffs, because quite frankly, the teams in front of them (with the exception to Philly) really are playing lousy hockey. There are just too many holes to other teams right now, that if the Islanders make a balanced trade, they have a great shot getting in, without having to give much up.