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.


29 Responses to High-cost Kovie

  1. cam7777 says:

    Meh, for a team like Toronto, it would be pretty easy to make sure Kovalchuk gets the money he wants while keeping the cap hit smaller.  On July 1st, Burke should not only have a 14 year, 117 million dollar contract ready, but he should have two major endorsements lined up (like Blackberry and McDonalds, or something like that).  In Toronto, he would be the most famous player in the world, and with endorsements, he would make close to the 20 million he would in Russia.  There's only a handfull of NHL teams that can make similar offers (if that).

    Making the cap space is pretty simple.  Either you find trades for Blake, Grabovski and Finger, or they get buried in the minors – it's that simple.  You do whatever it takes to land a player of Kovalchuk's magnitude.  I'm sure Burke would have preferred Rick Nash, but since Kovalchuk looks like he will make it to July 1st without a contract, I'm sure he will be prepared.  I'm also fairly certain Burke can find a trade partner for one of Grabovski and Blake, and probably both. 

  2. TheLeafNation91 says:

    1. Like cam said…Burke will make moves probably to free up cap space if he wants Kovalchuk that badly

    2. Like cam said…He will probably make the cap hit very front-loaded, and it supsequently dies once he hits 34 or 35 something

    3. Burke knows how to work the salary cap, knows how to get out of trouble, and he wont sign a player over 6 million usually. so if kovalchuk wants more, burke will say screw you

  3. cam7777 says:

    Well, I think we still have to expect to pay him at least 8 million. 

    The problem with Burke, is that he has a real problem with signing players to long contracts.  In most cases, this is a good thing, as it gives him an out if the contract turns out to be a bad one, and he only has to live with it for so long.  For instance, if Beauchemin continues to not pan out exactly as planned, and struggles again next season, well, he can be moved pretty quickly and easily, and if not, his contract expires soon after.

    Hopefully he is willing to make an exception with Kovalchuk, because on a shorter term contract (say only 6 years), Burke would have to pay him the league maximum of 11.36 million.  He needs to take advantage of the CBA error while he still can, and get someone like Kovalchuk inked long term at a smaller cap hit.  This could turn out to be a once every five year occurrence that someone even close to Kovalchuk's magnitude actually hits free agency, and if that's the case, Burke cannot simply look the other way, or stick to his moral high horse on long contracts….

    Be bold Burke, be bold….

  4. mojo19 says:

    Its true, people think about the 'tax free' salary players can earn in Russia, but neglect the big time endorsements they'll earn in North America. And on the Leafs, Kovalchuk would be the face of the NHL.

    I'm pumped, I really hope this happens.

  5. mojo19 says:

    Ya, I think he'll go over a $6 million cap hit for one of the games absolute best players. $8.5 million range cap hit, but he'll earn $11 million during the first several years.

  6. cam7777 says:

    Then we just need a center for him and Kessel.  If we have the exodus we should at the deadline this year, than we should have the assets to go out and acquire someone pretty solid. 

    What does Hagman + Mitchell + 2nd + 2nd get you?

  7. hockey_lover says:

    One other thing to consider in the "Russia vs. NA" debate …

    Now, correct me if I am wrong (because I definitely dont know if its true or not) but I thought I had heard something about the KHL onlying play 50 games a season?  If so, thats another pretty big benefit.

    82 games vs. 50 games for the same money …..

    Again, I dont know if this is true but that is what I heard.

  8. TheLeafNation91 says:

    also in europe…they usually pay for your housing and everything

  9. reinjosh says:

    the thing everyone leaves out is that most players in the NHL (the talented russians included) came here to play because its the best in the world
    that isnt changing anytime soon
    Ovechkin wont be leaving, thats just some journalist looking for a story
    neither will Kovie
    and they also dont mention that a great many of KHL teams have a hard time paying players the full amount
    it happens a lot

  10. KingCanada says:

    Jordan Staal, Bobby Ryan or Nathan Horton if were lucky?  Doubtful tho…

  11. habs79 says:

    Right now the cap is expected to stay the same. Kessel, Hagman, Orr, Komisarek, Beauchemin, and Kaberle plus Tucker's buyout account for $23 million dollars. Now that is with Burke either burying or finding suckers to take Grabovski and Finger. I'm sure he can find a place for Blake though. Now Kovalchuk is looking for the league max which i believe right now is a little over $11 million. I doubt he will get that, but I am sure he will get more than the 8.3 you are suggesting Burke will offer. So for arguments sake lets say 9 to sign him and bring the Leafs to an even $32 million. That leaves roughly leaves $25 million for 8 forwards, 3 defencemen, and 2 goalies.

    As for your comment making Kovalchuk the "most famous player in the world" if he signs in Toronto. Well I don't think that really deserves a comment that is way to far in fantasy land. To even suggest he would become more famous than Crosby or Ovie is just pure dreaming. Besides I have a lot of friends in Toronto that I have visit quite often, and too be honest it seems as though Toronto is more of a basketball city now.
  12. habs79 says:

    Really? The face of the NHL? Really? Like he will become more popular than Crosby or Ovie? I doubt he will be the face of sports in Toronto over Chris Bosh.

  13. habs79 says:

    You can't make a cap hit front loaded. The cap hit is the average of the player's contact. Doesn't matter if he is making more or less.

  14. KingCanada says:

    Its a 56 game schedule in the KHL, so thats just over 26 less games then the NHL.  Just over 2/3 of the NHL schedule.

  15. KingCanada says:

    I dont think Kovalchuk is going to get the league max, almost no team can afford that in the salary cap world.  I also dont think Ilya will bolt to the KHL…if he is actually worried about the financial viability of the Atlanta Thrashers then he should have red flags going off regarding the KHL since it has had financial issues as well.

    If Kovalchuk really wants to make alot of money and stands his ground then he will probably get a front loaded contract and be roughly a 8 million cap hit.

    Even Marion Gaborik didnt get that much, he cashed in at 7.5.  I really think Kovalchuk is just throwing those kind of numbers around right now to price out the Thrashers…theres no way he can be really THAT full of himself honestly..

  16. habs79 says:

    For those dreamers who think Kovalchuk will become the "face of the NHL" and "the most popular player in the world" should read the following article.

    I doubt Kovalchuk will become the face of anything in Toronto as he will not pass Chris Bosh's popularity. 
    You can also google "less teenagers watch hockey" to get the article from different parts of the country and read the people's reaction to it.
  17. leafmeister says:

    I live in Toronto, I have all of my life and trust me, if Kovalchuk came to Toronto, his face would be everywhere. The love of the Leafs is so ingrained in this city, that if they ever got a player like Kovalchuk, and were competitive year in and year out you would not be able to turn around without seeing a Maple Leaf.

    Basketball in Toronto will never be the same as Hockey, when they do well, people care, but people usually don't give a shit. I know I dont.

    The Leafs could finish dead last year in and year out and still have 20,000 people cheering for every goal. This city being so accepting of mediocrity is largely why the Leafs only have the odd good season.

  18. blaze says:

    who's Chris Bosh?

  19. blaze says:

    You cheer for the dirty Habs, how can your opinion be relevent?

  20. blaze says:

    Yes! Bring on the KKK line.

  21. jpmac says:

    Well thought out comment.  Anybody who cheers for the habs can't think logically.  Whats the definition of irony again?

  22. blaze says:

    Its been scientifically proven, sorry.

  23. reinjosh says:

    Horton is doubtful to be traded. His play has just picked up and Florida won't trade him.
    Staal is a possibility because of the cap and Hagman would provide a winger for Malkin to play with and a player to replace Staal as the third line center and cheaper.

  24. reinjosh says:

    It might be a little much to say that Kovy would become bigger than Crosby or Ovechkin. But do not underestimate the ability of the world's most popular hockey team to make a player that much bigger. Kovy and Toronto would be a potent combination for popularity.
    And to suggest that Bosh would be more popular is ludicrous. The only reason he is more popular now is because the Leafs have no big time player and the Raptors are doing somewhat well. The second a player like Kovy becomes a leaf (not suggesting it happens just stating for argument purposes), he would become Toronto's most popular celebrity.

  25. JoelJoel says:

    Couldn't agree more.

    Basketball is in because the leafs are painful to watch.

    And imagine what it would do for free agency.

    Not that this is a main factor, but so many great NHLers were born and raised in the GTA. Presumably, (with the exception of french players) they all rooted for the leafs.

    What if the leafs had a decent goalie (maybe the Monster, maybe a tandem) and two big names like Kovi and Kessel? I'm sure it would be a lot easier to attract talent.

    Look at Detroit. They are able to retain players for below their market value because they want to play on a contending team with a great organization to back it.

    I'm not saying that he will save the franchise, but it would be nice to have an elite player again.

    Offer him the same per year as Ovechkin (maybe a touch less, but he seems to want as much as he can get). Tempt him with the millions upon millions in endorsements that would come with a long term contract in TO. Then offer him the captaincy and all the bonuses we can throw at him.

    Although him, Kessel, and Kadri on a line together might spell trouble…. Maybe they could pick up Laraque so they don't look racist.

  26. JoelJoel says:

    Maybe a bit brash, but you're got a point.

    He's a habs fan. He likely dosen't live in To. Hockey is huge here. I'm from Mississauga and even friends of mine that just immigrated here in the past few years are die-hard leafs fans. It is hard to not be a leafs fan.

    And if habs does live in the GTA he has reason for hating the leafs and not wanting to admit how huge they are.

    To deny the titan that is leafs nation in the GTA is purely ignorant and short sighted.

    Ever heard of the Ballard years? Yeah, well they still sold out the gardens every night.

    Eat a dick, habs fans!

  27. bbruins37 says:

    bosh is gone at the end of this season anyways.

  28. tacitus says:

    why would they put 2 all stars like Kovalchuk and Kessel with a second line player at best like Kadri??? remember this was one of the guys who couldnt win gold for canada?

  29. reinjosh says:

    just like Hall and half a dozen other highly thought of prospects
    that doenst make them all bad

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