Hockey Rumors and News – October 18, 2009

Kovalchuk decision looming: analysts

CBC Sports

A decision by Atlanta forward Ilya Kovalchuk on his future is coming soon.

Watch for a full-fledged goaltending controversy in Montreal
Kovalchuk decision looming: analysts

CBC Sports

A decision by Atlanta forward Ilya Kovalchuk on his future is coming soon.

The impending Thrashers free agent will decide in the next few weeks whether he will re-sign with the club or choose to test free-agency, according to analysts Pierre LeBrun and Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada’s Hotstove segment on Saturday.

“That could happen in the next couple of weeks. [There are] a lot of positive feelings coming out of Atlanta,” LeBrun said. “But there’s a team in the [Kontinental Hockey League] … that I think would love to get its hands on him.”

That team is Russia SKA Saint Petersburg, operated by KHL president Alexander Medvedev. If Kovalchuk moves back to Russia, it would be the biggest coup so far for the fledging super-league.

Kovalchuk has spent all of his eight NHL seasons with the Thrashers, who drafted him first overall in 2001.

But he’s only had limited playoff success with the team. Atlanta only reached the post-season once with the Russian in the lineup, in 2006-07 when the Thrashers were swept in the first round.

If Kovalchuk chooses not to sign with Atlanta, Friedman said he might make the move to Russia.

“A number of Russian players around the league believe that if he’s not in Atlanta next year, he will go back to Russia,” he said. “And the question is: Does he want the money [that will be offered in the KHL], or does he want to stay in the NHL?”

Leafs’ Slump Could Have Olympic Fallout


Under different cir*****stances, Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke would probably be facing a quandary. With his team equaling its worst start in 92 years after Saturday night’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers, it would not be surprising if Coach Ron Wilson’s job was in jeopardy.

But Burke is also the general manager of the United States Olympic team, and Wilson is that team’s coach. It would be awkward for him to dismiss Wilson from the Leafs but retain him for the Olympic tournament that begins Feb. 15 in Vancouver.

The question arises just two weeks into the season because Toronto is 0-6-1, and its fans and the voracious press that covers the Leafs in this hockey-obsessed city have begun asking whether Wilson should be fired. Wilson has been prickly in exchanges with members of the news media after a few of the Leafs’ six losses. Despite an off-season revamping of the roster by Burke and the promise of a turnaround from last season’s 12th-place finish in the Eastern Conference, the Leafs have fallen flat.

“It’s intense here,” said defenseman Mike Komisarek, one of Burke’s expensive free-agent signings. “It can be a real pressure cooker.”

NHL brass pleased with Quebec City’s move


It would appear that the NHL’s top two in command are at least taking notice of Quebec City’s drive to get a new franchise.

“It is apparent that the overall reaction in Quebec City to Mayor Labeaume’s plan for a new arena is very positive,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman in an e-mail with the Journal de Quebec. “We will watch the process with interest.”

Bill Daly echoed those statements and added that a new arena built in Quebec City would go a long way in helping the city secure a team.

“We are encouraged by the Mayor’s announcement on the new arena and we believe it will be a very good thing for the City of Quebec,” he said. “While there are no guarantees that an NHL franchise can return, certainly a new arena will enhance those prospects significantly.”

The question of what the city has to do to get a team -– building a new amphitheatre seems to be the key here -– remains, as does Quebec City’s position in relation to other cities vying for a franchise.

Will Quebec City be put ahead of Kansas City, Las Vegas and other American cities looking to land a hockey club?

Neither Daly nor Bettman will comment on a possible ranking as far as Quebec is concerned. Daly, however, told the Toronto Star on Oct. 11 that the league favours Canadian cities that have supported NHL franchises in the past.

Answering a question about Hamilton’s hope of getting a team, Daly said: “Both Winnipeg and Quebec have already done that (supported an NHL team). We`ll see how things evolve. That doesn`t mean that Hamilton won`t be considered. It will be.“ So is it possible that Quebec, Winnipeg and Hamilton could all land franchises at the same time? Sources close to the NHL have said that the six Canadian teams have become important for the NHL since the economic crisis hit the US will full force. That has resulted in teams like the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lighting, Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes all facing serious financial troubles.

Watch for a full-fledged goaltending controversy in Montreal


Watch for a full-fledged goaltending controversy in Montreal. Carey Price’s poor play has carried over from last season and there’s a strong belief that Jaroslav Halak should be the Habs’ No. 1 goalie. Some NHL insiders think Halak should already have the job. That’s why GM Bob Gainey has been fielding calls from several teams who are interested in Halak, because if the Habs don’t think he’s a No. 1, there are lot teams that do. Chicago, Washington, Detroit and Tampa might look for goaltending help later on in the season … The Blackhawks are going to have a tough time keeping young players like C Jonathan Toews, RW Patrick Kane and D Duncan Keith in the fold when they become restricted free agents next summer. The belief is the ’Hawks will shop D Brian Campbell and his $7.14-million US salary in the off-season to see if they can free up some cap space in hopes they can re-sign the trio … Top two candidates to be the next GMs hired in the NHL: Steve Yzerman and TSN’s Pierre McGuire. Nobody will go after Yzerman until after the Olympics. McGuire was a finalist for the Wild job that went to Chuck Fletcher.