As Thrashervillians hustle to and fro getting their holiday shopping wrapped up…while at the same time enjoying their team’s 17-11-3 record thus far…there still is this one subject looming over our heads. It is the topic of discussion that has been with us for quite a while, mind you…stirring about in the background of our conversations as spring turned to summer and the summer gave way to fall…through Halloween, into Thanksgiving weekend…and now as we prepare for our annual winter holidays.
That subject is, of course, the ongoing contract talks between the Thrashers’ organization and their captain Ilya Kovalchuk. Now, as fall cedes to winter, Hanukah has begun and Christmas rapidly approaches…it remains with us still. And while much has already been said in the topic…the time is rapidly approaching where chatter must give way to action.
Up ‘til this time, Kovy’s contract status was much like that tiny mouse in Clement Clark Moore’s poem of 1822 who ceases it’s stirring on Christmas Eve. It was there, certainly…but not a big problem just yet.
However, the more time passes it begins to appear less like that small rodent and more like a 5,000-pound reindeer in the middle of Santa’s pack.
When a creature that size stirs about, one cannot help but take notice…and it isn’t taking Christmas off, either.
Furthermore, the longer this 5,000-pound reindeer hangs around…the more likely it becomes that it’ll bring down this promising season much in the same fashion the oversized Rudolph would drag down ol’ St. Nick’s sleigh if left attached with the rest of the team of flying reindeer.
But why is this discussion more prominent now than a few weeks back…or a few weeks from now, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked.
See, if we go back to last September, we find this article posted by Jeff Schultz just before the season began. When asked about Kovy’s contract situation, general manager Don Waddell offered up the following response…“I don’t think we’ll be talking about this at Christmas time”.
Hmmmm… well, given that the weather has turned a bit colder… I still have trips to make to Costco, Macy’s, Walmart and Borders Book Store in the coming nine days…and that the program interrupted a few weeks back by President Obama was “A Charlie Brown Christmas”…it seems as though Christmas is indeed upon us.
And we are still “talking about this”.
Then there is this little write up fresh off the Russian presses…which basically states that Waddell and Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman, are at a bit of an impasse. According to the story…as I understand it with great assistance from our good friend and frequent contributor “Russian”… Grossman is asking for 10-years at the maximum allowable pay of $11.5 million per year. Waddell and the Thrashers, reportedly, are worried that this is more money than they want to shell out to retain Kovy’s services beyond this year.
Now, I have long held the belief that the Thrashers have been looking to sign their Russian phenom at around the rate of about $10 million per season…a figure I come up with by adding Kovalchuk’s current salary with that of fellow countryman Slava Kozlov. I contend that the organization will opt not to re-sign Kozlov…who will be 38-years of age in May…and simply transfer that $3.667 mil or so from his ledger to Kovy’s.
If so…then the two parties are about a million per and a half per year apart.
The article also goes on to read that Don Waddell is now considering what he would seek in return for Kovalchuk, should a trade become necessary in the event this gap cannot be bridged.
However, that flies in the face of what Don Waddell indicated just last spring when discussing the matter with Chris Vivlamore who wrote…“General manager Don Waddell told the Journal-Constitution last week that, unequivocally, Kovalchuk will remain with the team as it attempts to re-sign one of the NHL’s elite players. There will be no trade deadline move — such as with Marian Hossa — if negotiations reach an impasse”.
Continuing on that thought, Waddell stated, “I think [the Thrashers and Kovalchuk] will both know where we are way before the season starts if it is going to happen…That doesn’t mean it can’t happen once the season starts. My mission is to keep Ilya Kovalchuk here, whether that happens in July or August or we have to go out and prove that we are a team that’s going to take that next step we are fine with that.”
So Thrasherville, the long and short of the situation, regardless if this rumor is based in fact or not, is… the clock still ticks. And just as Christmas will arrive whether we are ready or not, so too will the time arrive to finally get something done.
If Kovalchuk and Grossman are going to dig in and refuse to budge from their reported demand of 10-years $115 million to re-sign him, there are but three possible choice for Waddell and the Thrashers to consider.
In regards to Kovy's contract, the Thrashers should...
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1.Pay Kovy the money! Whatever it is he’s asking for…cough it up and keep him here.
2. Trade him. Put together a package you think is worth parting ways with the 2001 first overall pick…the franchise player that the team has been and was supposed to be built around.
3. Do nothing. Much like the Florida Panthers did with Jay Bouwmeester last year, you keep him for the playoff run knowing he’s services now are crucial to succeeding… and then take your chances re-signing him sometime before July 1…something Florida, by the way, was unable to do with J-Bo.
Either way…this is not really the subject matter I wanted to be discussing at this point in time, to be honest. But we are doing so none-the-less…regardless of what Don Waddell told us last May.
And the 5,000-pound reindeer isn’t getting any smaller.