Burgundy here. I’d like to introduce Stayclassy’s newest writer, Harken! Please give Harken a warm welcome and enjoy his first article – it’s a good one! What would you do with the Kovalchuk issue?
First, let me apologize to Atlanta Thrasher fans. Discussing this possible trade is sort of like viewing the body of a deceased family member of theirs— before they’re quite dead.
And, that said, there is a good chance the Thrashers will re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk.
I am not particularly close to the situation in Atlanta. But what I hear tells me the workings of a new contract might be troublesome. And the trade deadline is less than 60 days from now.
That aside, if the Thrashers should decide to trade Kovalchuk before then, it doesn’t have to be to the detriment of the franchise.
In fact, there are a number of scenarios by which the Thrashers could solve a number of problems through such a deal.
One of those scenarios, perhaps the most obvious, is dealing Kovalchuk to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Let’s pause for a moment, waiting for the echoes of laughter (or outrage) to die down. And now let’s address the “conventional wisdom” point-by-point.
“Chicago can’t afford that.”
Yes, they can, as a rental, in return for some of the salaried players they will have to lose before next season.
“Why would Chicago need him? They’re stacked.”
The Blackhawks’ window for winning the Stanley Cup will perhaps never be better than it is this year— next year’s team will, by necessity, be missing 3-4 key players off the current roster. But there is also no guarantee they will win it this year. To that end, they could benefit, like all teams could, from what Kovalchuk brings at even strength. And the Hawks, in particular, could benefit from adding a right-handed point shot on the power play— of which there are few better than Kovalchuk.
“Why would Atlanta deal with them?”
The Blackhawks need to lose exactly what Atlanta needs to gain in such a deal. The Blackhawks have 5 players, each making $3-4 million per season, who are good, young players with recognizable, marketable names that Don Waddell could plug in to his lineup tomorrow and help build his entire team right away: Cam Barker, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland and/or Dustin Byfuglien. Plus, the Blackhawks have two good, NHL-experienced prospects at Rockford in the AHL who could help a team like the Thrashers, goalie Corey Crawford and RW Jack Skille (a former top ten pick). On top of all that, Atlanta Assistant GM Rick Dudley was instrumental in acquiring or developing all these players in Chicago.
“The dollars can’t work. And Chicago needs more than a rental for all those players.”
Untrue, and true. The dollars can work (a lot of different ways) and the Blackhawks can (and will) get more than a rental for all the players they need to deal.
Of the four players mentioned, any two could be dealt for Kovalchuk in an even salary swap. Or, two of those players and one of the high-end prospects just mentioned could be dealt for Kovalchuk with Atlanta absorbing the overage on their cap, or in the minors.
If, say, the package sent to Atlanta included Patrick Sharp and Barker, the Blackhawks might also be able to ask the Thrashers to include a draft pick or two. Further, the Blackhawks would still need to deal 2-3 more players after concluding a Kovalchuk deal, but before the beginning of play next season. And those deals could net futures, like draft picks or prospects.
“Kovalchuk doesn’t fit their defense-first system. He’s not a ‘Bowman’ player.”
Nonsense. Did Patrick Kane fit Chicago’ system last year when his name and ‘backchecking’ could not be included in the same sentence? Does Kris Versteeg, the walking antithesis of smart puck decisions fit Chicago’s system? Plus, Kovalchuk has represented Russia many times in international tournaments. He can adjust to Chicago’s system, about as quickly as Joel Quenneville can say: “Kovy, if you want max ice time, you gotta be on your guy up and down the ice.”
“Chicago can wait ‘til after the season. Why mess with a good thing?”
That depends on how you look at it. It can also be argued that waiting until the offseason to pare roughly $15 million in gross salary, sign free agents and fill out a roster that is sure to have holes, is not just foolish, it’s insanity; it’s too much work to do in a very short period of time.
To wit, the Blackhawks’ playoffs will likely conclude sometime in late May or June, depending on how far they advance. Free agency starts July 1, with the contracts of Nik Hjalmarsson, Andrew Ladd and Antti Niemi to address. Thus, the Blackhawks could benefit tremendously from significantly less payroll, and more clarity on their situation, before that point.
Finally, as mentioned before, the Blackhawks are close, but they are not guaranteed to win the Cup for the first time in 48 years. Acquiring a world-class rental like Kovalchuk in exchange for good players— but good players who are really part of their depth and not the core of Hossa, Toews, Kane, Seabrook, Keith and Campbell— could be the thing that really puts them over the top. Because Kovalchuk also fills at least one gap the Blackhawks have.
There you have it. A perfectly implausible trade scenario, or a perfect storm of factors indicating Ilya Kovalchuk wearing the Indianhead in March.
You tell me.