I spent a few minutes talking to Ilya Kovalchuk after Wednesday’s practice. I wanted to get his response from the following questions:
Are you frustrated by the ongoing contract negotiations and the time that has elapsed?
Are you still confident (as he said earlier this season) that a new deal will get done?
Here are his responses:
Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that he is not frustrated by ongoing contract negotiations. Kovalchuk, who will become an unrestricted free agent after the season, also said he remains confident a deal will get done.
“No, not really,” Kovalchuk said when asked if he was frustrated with the length of time that has elapsed. “I just try to focus on my game and my goal to make the playoffs. I don’t care about the contract situation. Everybody goes through it. It’s not frustrating at all. …
“It’s not easy to sign a deal. Whatever it takes, we’ll take our time.”
Negotiations between the Thrashers and Kovalchuk, the franchise’s all-time leader in games, points, goals and assists, have been ongoing for much of the season. In October, Kovalchuk gave his agent the go-ahead to work on a new deal, satisfied with the team’s offseason acquisitions and its early-season performance.
However, a contract agreement has not been reached months later. The NHL will take a two-week hiatus for the Winter Olympics in February and the league’s trade deadline is March 3.
“Yes, I feel very confident,” Kovalchuk said. “Like I said, I like everything that’s been done over time. It’s not an easy thing to sign a long-term deal and if it has to take until the last second, that’s what it takes. You never know.”
Thrashers general manager Don Waddell told the AJC on Monday that his first choice remains to sign Kovalchuk, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft. Waddell did acknowledge that a trade was a possibility for the organization should contract talks reach an impasse.
Waddell said that both sides have a contract proposal on the table.
“We are at a difference of what the player should be paid,” Waddell said.