Only One place for Kovalev
The Forth Period has reported that it’s not a matter of if Alexei Kovalev will become a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, its just when, and what will it cost them. Although there were originally rumored to be five teams in the running for the Penguin’s superstar, the New York Rangers are really the only team that could stand in the way of Kovalev going to Toronto. Dallas owner Tom Hicks, in the midst of selling the club has clearly stated they will not make a move of this magnitude, and the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders simply cannot take on a soon-to-be $9 million/year player. Detroit, one club who could afford Kovalev, is not in the running and is more in need of a defenseman. As has been reported here, the Wings are rumored to be in discussions with Phoenix regarding captain Teppo Numminen, who would likely request a pay raise and a contract extension in order to waive his no-trade clause. Which brings us to the Rangers, a team with a seemingly never-ending warchest. If GM Glen Sather could sell ownership on approving bringing in Boris Mironov and his $3.3 million salary, I’m sure he could get their blessing to bring back former Ranger Kovalev and his impending contract.
The Maple Leafs though could, and TFP sources say, would trump any offer the Rangers make for Kovalev. Toronto definitely has the money to spend, they made an offer last summer to free agent Bobby Holik, rumored to be close to the $9 million/year Holik received from the Rangers. So presumable they would be willing to acquire and sign Kovalev, a superior player, to a similar deal. Leafs management also thinks that the timing is right, and it is for a few reasons. They are receiving the type of goaltending, from Ed Belfour that can carry a team to the final, especially in what is an absolutely wide open (or is that weak?) Eastern Conference. Playoff superman Gary Roberts is close to returning and they feel adding Roberts and Kovalev to their already competitive lineup could put them over the top. For the first time in a while, because of good scouting and excellent drafts the last few years, the Leafs are loaded with top prospects, especially on the blueline, which would allow them to make a deal like this without sacrificing too much of the future. And lastly, the fans and media in Toronto are demanding that Kovalev be acquired by the blue and white. Management took a lot of heat in the off-season for missing out on the big name free agent forwards, although in the end undoubtedly made the best signing, in brigning in Belfour. So its really just a matter of what will be the price for the NHL’s fourth leading scorer. It is likely that the Leafs would be willing to package a quality NHL forward with a top prospect defenseman, and that would be suitable for Pittsburgh, but obviously agreeing on the two names is not so easy. The names that Pittsburgh GM Craig Patrick likes are Nik Antropov and Carlo Colaiacovo, while Toronto much prefers Alyn McCauley or Darcy Tucker and Ian White or Brendan Bell. Patrick is one of the most patient men in the business and will be willing to wait until the eleventh hour to make a deal.