Kovalchuk, Halak and Coaching News from the Toronto Sun

Atlanta Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk is looking to hit a home run with his next contract and maybe shoot for the NHL maximum of $11.36 million a season.

Why not? Aim high. That’s 20 per cent of the current salary cap of approximately $56.7 million a team, the maximum allowed for an individual player.

You can debate what Kovalchuk, set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, is worth.

But you can’t blame him for asking for as much as he can get, especially with rumblings a severe alteration to the maximum salary rule could be coming in the next CBA.

Some league insiders would like to see the individual cap slashed to a hard figure of, say, $6 million. The players would still get their fixed percentage of hockey-related revenues (about 57 per cent), they would just be distributed differently among the membership.

The big advantage for the teams, of course, is having a hard individual cap would allow them to keep more of their best players.

Stay tuned.

THE BUZZ: Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak has asked to be traded and he’s doing a pretty good job of upping his market value. He is 3-0 on the Habs’ current road trip, stopping 133 of 137 shots. His save percentage is up to .922 and his goals-against average down to 2.56, both better numbers than those owned by Carey Price …With nine players out the other night, the Detroit Red Wings haven’t scored a goal in 141 minutes, a stetch that includes being shut out twice by the Chicago Blackhawks. Their power play is 0-for-19 in the last six games. Some good news: Valtteri Filppula is expected back tonight against Columbus … Speaking of the ’Hawks, that game against Detroit was one of 19 back-to-back situations they have this year, the most in the league. Chicago is now 6-0-2 on the back half this season; 2-5-1 on the front end. Go figure.

SPECULATIONS: Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff will be an assistant coach with Canada’s Olympic team. Canada plays the U.S. in the Olympic preliminary round, so will Ruff have a tip on beating Ryan Miller, his goaltender with the Sabres and the likely starter for the Americans? “I don’t think there is right now,” Ruff said. “If there was, other teams would have it already. He’s just been solid. His reading of the game and reading plays in the game is just real good right now. He doesn’t have any holes.” … Minnesota G Niklas Backstrom is still adjusting to new equipment after losing his gear in that fire in Ottawa last week. He’s sporting a new, bigger chest protector. How big? “Hey, when did we trade for Giguere?‘ asked his teammates.