Thrashers general manager Don Waddell claimed a report that negotiations with star player Ilya Kovalchuk were at an impasse is “certainly false.”
“[Kovalchuk’s agent] Jay [Grossman] is actually coming in here [Saturday] and we’ll meet again,” Waddell said Thursday. “We will continue our talks. They have been really positive. I have not seen a sign yet that we aren’t going to be able to get this deal done.”
A report out of Kovalchuk’s native Russia said that contract talks have stalled after the team balked at a 10-year, $11.5 million per year deal. The report also stated that Waddell is considering trade options and that Vancouver and Los Angeles are interested.
“We like our hockey team,” Waddell said. “At this point I can honestly say that I haven’t talked to one team about a trade. Why even start that because our goal is to get this player signed.”
Waddell said he thought the next month of negotiations would be critical.
“We can’t be talking about this in February,” he said.
Waddell said contract talks currently revolve around the length of a new deal for Kovalchuk, who will become an unrestricted free agent in July. He said the deal will be a long-term contract.
“When you are doing a deal of this magnitude, it’s not a player signing, it’s a partnership,” he said. “You are going to line up with someone for multiple, multiple years, it’s got to be a fit – for both parties.”
Waddell again reiterated that Kovalchuk is pleased with the direction of the team. However, he did acknowledge that there is a lot of work to be done.
“After you get done with all the other aspects of the deal, the financial aspect is the biggest decision that has to be made,” Waddell said. “It’s not just Kovy’s [salary] number, it’s how we keep this team together.”
The maximum salary a player can receive is 20 percent of the league salary cap. That figure would be $11.3 million a season as the cap currently stands.
“There hasn’t been any breakdown in communications,” Waddell said. “We talk quite a bit. As long as I don’t get the sense that they are closing the door. That’s a different story.”