I trust you’ve all seen the story I did yesterday on the Ilya Kovalchuk negotiations. Sounds like they are progressing. My impression – and it’s only my impression – is that there isn’t cause for concern right now. I spoke with Don Waddell for about a half hour on Monday in his office. His opinion is something will get done. Now, anything can happen in contract negotiations (again a lesson I learned in the Ken Griffey Jr. incident) but I haven’t sense a reason to worry in my reporting. I also think things may move a bit faster once Kovy returns to the states with training camp just around the corner.
I also met Nik Antropov, Todd White and Nathan Oystrick yesterday. They all were working out at the practice facility. Spent some time talking to each for future blogs and Sunday notes column. Antropov is indeed big. I really had no idea. He wasn’t real talkative, but that could have been my questions. I spoke to him a lot about Kovy. Andy Sutton was working out with them as well.
Now, for the title of the blog. I asked Waddell how Kari Lehtonen was progressing from his off-season back surgery. He said he gets weekly updates from Kari’s doctor and that all seems to be fine. They are not in a hurry to rush him back. Which brought us back to the goaltending situation. As you know, they have Johan Hedberg, Ondrej Pavelic and Lehtonen. However, Waddell reminded me not to forget about a new player in the mix – Drew MacIntyre. He was an unrestricted free agent the Thrashers signed on the same day they agreed to terms with Joel Kwiatkowski and Jason Krog.
“He’s going to compete for a job,” Waddell said Monday. “He’s a good goalie. He was one of the top goalies in the American league the last two years. We are very happy to sign him. He’ll be [in training camp]. He’ll compete for a spot. We are going to have some fun here.
“You can’t have enough [goaltending]. … The last few years when Kari’s been hurt, we’ve put ourselves in a very tough situation. You bury yourself in November, it’s tough to get out. It was a big decision this year to make sure we sign and have guys that can compete for that job. If somebody else comes in and competes and wins the job, that means they’re better. That’s our ultimate goal is to be the best team we can this year.”
MacIntyre has a 91-49-8 record in 155 AHL games. He’s played with Grand Rapids, Manitoba and, most recently, Milwaukee. He has three straight seasons of at least 25 wins. Last season he was 34-15-4 with four shutouts and a 2.30 goals-against average. He led the AHL in wins, was fifth in GAA and sixth in save percentage.
One final plea for help. The story I did last week on Eric Boulton and Chris Thorburn training with a boxing instructor will run in tomorrow’s paper and be online later tonight. I need to include with it a list of the five all-time best fighters in the NHL. What’s your list? I could use a little help putting it together.
I am working on some advance stories today, so I will be on the blog for a good bit. I should be able to answer some questions.