Some NHL Rumors – Feb 5, 2010

With Kovalchuk moved, Hurricanes lead league in trade deadline intrigue

JD acknowledges Blues’ interest in Ilya Kovalchuk before the trade

With Kovalchuk moved, Hurricanes lead league in trade deadline intrigue

By Kevin Allen, USA TODAY

The Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs made early splashes this week by dealing for Ilya Kovalchuk and Dion Phaneuf. But there’s opportunity for many more moves because nearly a month remains before the March 3 trade deadline.
Here are my picks for the teams with the most intriguing decisions:

1. Carolina Hurricanes: The ‘Canes are the belle of the ball for the trade deadline. General manager Jim Rutherford is open for business, and forwards Ray Whitney (no-trade clause) and Matt Cullen are coveted by other organizations. Niclas Wallin, Aaron Ward and Stephane Yelle could also be moved as Carolina resets for next season. Because of the number of free agents, they are in great shape to take advantage of their situation and come back next season and make the playoffs. They could end up with the first pick in the draft, add premium prospects and have cap space to add free agents this summer.

2. Washington Capitals: GM George McPhee told me two weeks ago that if the trade deadline were that day, he would not make a single move. But he also reserved the right to change his mind if his team’s situation changed. The Capitals, in the midst of a 12-game winning streak, are an exceptionally dominant offensive team. They have two strong lines, speed, a good face-off man in Dave Steckel, plus solid role players. They could probably upgrade their defense, but isn’t that true of most teams? The question around the league about the Capitals is whether their goaltending will be good enough. The Caps have faith in Semyon Varlamov, who looked impressive in last season’s playoffs. But his progress was undermined by injuries this season, and he hasn’t played in the NHL since Dec. 7. He is also only 21. The other option is Jose Theodore, who has played well of late but is known for inconsistency. Depending upon what happens with Varlamov, McPhee might have to ponder acquiring a veteran goalie.

BIG DEAL: Kovalchuk heads to New Jersey

3. Nashville Predators: Don’t get your hopes up Nashville fans because there is no major deal on the horizon. Peter Forsberg isn’t coming back to Nashville. Instead, they face an agonizing dilemma about what to do about Dan Hamhuis. At the heart of Nashville’s competitiveness is a defense led by Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Hamhuis. Weber and Suter are locked into contracts, and Hamhuis will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Although they would like to keep Hamhuis, the presumption is that the Predators can’t/won’t pay him what he will be offered on the open market. So the question they must debate is whether to simply use him up this season and then receive nothing in return or trade him now, hoping to get perhaps a younger player who could help them now and in the future. The Predators need scoring, and a team might be willing to give up a promising scorer in return for Hamhuis. But the Predators need to make the playoffs, and the Predators could decide that Hamhuis is too valuable to that pursuit to trade him.

4. Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers might not be done dealing after Kovalchuk is moved. Colby Armstrong is going to be an unrestricted free agent, and there is no mutual admiration between Armstrong and his coach John Anderson. Also, GM Don Waddell has to decide what to do with his goaltending. With three goalies on the team, it’s not unthinkable he could deal Kari Lehtonen. There is a market for him.

JD acknowledges Blues’ interest in Ilya Kovalchuk before the trade

Jeremy Rutherford

Blues President John Davidson acknowledged Thursday night that the club had “legitimate interest” in trading for Ilya Kovalchuk before the star forward was dealt to New Jersey earlier in the day.”We had been working at it for the better part of the week,” Davidson said. “We had great conversations with Atlanta. We talked to them about various thoughts and ideas and put (a trade proposal) together. It never came to fruition.”

The Devils acquired Kovalchuk from Atlanta in exchange for defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick this year.

Davidson said the Thrashers were asking for “a piece or two that we weren’t willing to give up, especially knowing that Kovalchuk is, for now, a rental player.”

Kovalchuk, who was the No. 1 overall pick by Altanta in 2001, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, meaning he can sign elsewhere if New Jersey doesn’t reach an extension with him before July 1.

“When you make a deal like that, if it’s really a magnitude coming out of your bank account, you’ve got to try to make sure that he signs,” Davidson said. “And that (permission to discuss a contract extension before a trade) was never given to any team that was in the battle trying to get him. So we just couldn’t afford to go the extra mile.”

Davidson said had the Blues been able to successfully negotiate an extension with Kovalchuk, who will turn 27 in April, they would have been more apt to make a deal.

“It would have been a heck of a lot easier to give up a lot if you knew he was going to stay here,” he said. “But you can’t give up a ton and then have Ilya not be here come July 1. You’re just starting from behind again, as a franchise.”