High-cost Kovie

Thrashers sniper may price himself right out of Atlanta


A Maple Leafs fan with a big imagination has already trumpeted via e-mail next season’s supposed weapon of mass destruction: A Special K line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel.

But Kovalchuk, a potential unrestricted free agent, is not only pricing himself out of Toronto’s salary cap constraints, he likely is turning off most of the NHL, starting with his current employers, the Atlanta Thrashers.

If recent rumblings are true that his agent, Jay Grossman, has asked the Thrashers for more than the Alex Ovechkin cap hit of $9.5 million US a season, then no wonder general manager Don Waddell is saying a trade “is an option, but not my first choice”.

Yet it might be the only way to satisfy all parties and get something for his prized asset.

Meetings with Grossman at the world junior tournament earlier this month did not result in the deal Waddell had been hoping for since the spring.

You can’t blame Kovalchuk for being wary of the Thrashers’ long-term viability in Georgia when their ownership picture is clouded. But Waddell did take steps to build a better team around the five-time 40-goal scoring winger, aware that he has already had Dany Heatley and Marian Hossa on his team and still is without his first playoff win.

Term doesn’t seem to be an issue, but not if Kovalchuk gets max salary every year. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis can consider such investments for Hart Trophy winner Ovechkin and his surging team as money well spent, but the Thrashers are unsure of their future and can’t be pushed to the limit in a game of contractual chicken.