What if Kovalchuk had accepted Waddell’s offer?

Last February as you’ll recall, the Thrashers dealt away their “face of the franchise” to the New Jersey Devils. The yearlong dance between Ilya Kovalchuk and then-general manager Don Waddell had finally come to an end and the organization’s hand was once again forced to trade away a marquee player…much like they had to do two years prior with Marian Hossa.

Kovy had strung the organization along for months, making it appear as though he wanted to stick around Thrasherville for many more years…even told a reporter who shall remain nameless prior to the season that a deal would be worked out. But when push came to shove, Ilya “pushed” the team into having to trade him and “shoved” the door wide open as he departed for greener pastures…or so he thought when he headed to the swamplands of New Jersey.

Kovy had departed Atlanta, even though Waddell had offered him as much as $10 million a season to stay.

Ilya Kovalchuk has had a devil of a time in New Jersey this season. His team is next to last in the conference and he has just 4 goals and 6 assists with a -9 rating (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Ilya Kovalchuk has had a devil of a time in New Jersey this season. His team is next to last in the conference and he has just 4 goals and 6 assists with a -9 rating (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

But I have a hypothetical question to offer up for your amusement today. What if…just if… Kovy had taken D-Wad up on his offer, taken the money and stuck around?

While I’m sure the mere thought of such a scenario just made a cold-as-death shudder race through some of your bodies, it not as fare-fetched as you might think. And I’d venture to guess it’s a question Kovalchuk has asked himself once or twice lately, especially given the fiasco that was his contract saga last summer and the Devils 6-13-2 record.

While there is no true way to predict what would have happened in Thrasherville between February and now, here’s my take at what we possibly could have experienced.

First of all, had Kovalchuk put ink to paper and locked himself up for five, possibly even seven, years at $10 mil per season, he and Anssi Salmela would still be property of the Atlanta Thrashers…and Nic Bergfors, Johnny Oduya and Patrice Cormier would not be. That in and of itself is reason enough for me to shudder in the light of hindsight. And by shudder I mean…shudder like someone who just found out that the transmission fell out of a car they had just sold last month.

whew…dodged that bullet.

Continuing… with a signed Kovalchuk still on the roster, I really wonder if the Thrashers would then have pulled off the trade with Chicago that brought in the likes of Ben Eager, Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Sopel. Remember, part of that deal was the second round pick that was swapped with the Devils in the Kovalchuk deal. Plus, given that they had already committed so much money to the Thrashers’ captain, I don’t know if the Octocluster would have permitted Rick Dudley to bring in such players of that caliber knowing what they would wind up costing the team to re-sign.

If I’m right and that trade had not then gone down… there would be no Buff, no Sopes and no Eager. Instead, remaining in Atlanta would have been Marty Reasoner while Joey Crabb and Jeremy Moran would remain in the Thrashers system.

If Kovalchuk re-signed in Atlanta, it's possible players like Dustin Byfuglien...seen here with Toby Enstrom...may not be a Thrasher (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

If Kovalchuk re-signed in Atlanta, it's possible players like Dustin Byfuglien...seen here with Toby Enstrom...may not be a Thrasher (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

Much as I liked Reasoner when he was with us and believe Moran is going to be very good…the thought of this team without those three players, especially Byfuglien, makes me shudder too. Shudder like the man who was abandoned at the altar by his fiancé, only to learn years later she wound up serving up antifreeze cocktails to her future husband.

whew…dodged that bullet.

Now, one question I don’t think can be answered with any certainty is whether or not the Thrashers would have still dealt for Andrew Ladd. But for the sake of this little exercise, I’m gonna go out on the proverbial limb and guess ‘no’ on that one too.

While it had little if anything to do with the trade last winter with New Jersey, I think the logic still applies here that the Thrashers ownership would have thumbs-downed any kinda of deal that would bring in a player of Ladd’s caliber. After all, we had just re-signed the franchise centerpiece… and for some serious coin mind you. So what would be the need to bring in a pending RFA that would add somewhere in the neighborhood of another two and a half mil to the payroll?

Nope…I’d reckon they’d just have left Vishnevskiy in Chicago, kept the second round draft pick next summer and banked the $2.4 million.

If all of that would’ve gone down the way I described, it would have left us with a starting day roster that would look something like this:

Forwards: Kovy, Antropov, Little, Kane, Peverley, Modin, Burmistrov, Stewart, Boulton, Reasoner, Thorburn, Slater and Pettersson, (who I’m guessing might have made the team absent Ladd and/or Eager), .

Defense: Hainsey, Enstrom, Bogosian, Valabik, (need him now without Sopel and Byfuglien), Meyer, Salmela and Zubarev…maybe Kulda.

In goal would still be Pavelec and Mason.

The price tag that would be attached to the proposed roster listed above, assuming a $10 mil cap hit for Kovalchuk…right at $46 million. That would be just over $5 million more than it is now according to capgeek.com.

Of course, this is all based on quite a deal of speculation…and there are a lot of “what ifs” involved. But this is just one fan’s stab at a possible outcome.

Maybe one could argue that with Kovalchuk around the Thrashers would have made a stronger effort to keep Maxim Afinogenov here. But Max’s presence on the roster would add a couple million more to the overall cap hit. The same could be said if they did indeed still make the trade for Ladd or one of the other three former Blackhawks players now contributing so much for this Thrashers team.

Keeping Captain Kovalchuk in Thrasherville would have meant no Captain Ladd in Thrasherville, even if the team had traded for the former Blackhawk (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Keeping Captain Kovalchuk in Thrasherville would have meant no Captain Ladd, even if the team had traded for the former Blackhawk (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

And who out there would suggest that the Great Octocluster would have allowed the bottom line to swell to anywhere around $48 to $50 million this season?

…looking around the blogosphere…

Anyone?

Anyone?

Bueller?

Yeah…me neither.

Lastly, here’s one other thing to consider. Right now Atlanta has a record of 9-9-3. And while those 21 points in the standings are 4 less then where the stood after 21 games last year, there seems to be a general sense of optimism in and around Thrasherville these days. Fans are starting to see this team gel lately and, let’s face it, the offense really doesn’t seemed to be missing Kovalchuk’s scoring. Where there was once one superstar looked upon to pot 50 per season, there is now a half dozen or so that are providing balanced scoring.

But had Kovy called Don’s bluff last January, accepting his $10 million offer to stay…and the Thrashers found themselves merely at or near break-even as we approach Thanksgiving…I don’t know if the same optimistic tingle would be running up the legs of Thrashers fans.

Instead, many would see it as more of the same old, tired, worn out strategy that failed to win us a single playoff game in 10+ years. Build a team around one player…fail to keep other key players to build around…fail to address the needs on the blueline…then simply hope he and a host of mediocre performers can somehow score enough to get by.

And many, myself included, would be lamenting the $10 million anchor tied around the organizations neck.

…shudders…

whew…dodged that bullet.

69 comments Add your comment

World Be Free

November 23rd, 2010
10:37 am

Who knows? I have to think about this a little more I guess.

kracker

November 23rd, 2010
10:43 am

- – - Because I got Ranallo’ed on the last blog, I’ll throw this out there again – - -

Thrashers adjusted points list thru 21 games. Listed as points minus a negative +/-. I notice Stewart and Kane in particular.

Ladd 20
Buff 19
Toby 14
Berg 13
Stew 10
Burma 8
Pev 8
Little 7
Eager 6
Kane 5
Thors 3
Boults 2
Sope 2
Ron 1
Nik 1
Modin 0
Slater -1
Welsh -1
Meyer -2
Oduya -3
Bogus -5
Dawes -6

hip czech

November 23rd, 2010
10:44 am

one more thing to be thankful for

iamtheratio

November 23rd, 2010
10:47 am

This is a little out of topic but I thought this should be brought up.

I was reading a story on the ajc.com about a soccer mom slapping a referee in the face at her 10 year old daughters soccer game. Here’s a quote from the story..

“That’s the kind of violence you’d associate with another sport like hockey,”

Source: http://www.ajc.com/news/forsyth/mom-slaps-referee-during-750913.html

Joe Friday

November 23rd, 2010
10:48 am

And now he’s gone
Now he’s gone, Lord he’s gone
He’s gone
Like a steam locomotive rolling down the track
He’s gone, gone, and nothing’s gonna bring him back
He’s gone

Here’s the big benefit I see to him being gone, gone . . . the club can now be remolded, as it is being, in the shape of a hard working hockey club that plays at both ends of the ice. I think the plan Dudley and Ramsay have is to take this current core set of guys and get them in the system this year, try to make the playoffs, if not, they’ll get the system. Next summer, you then go get that top line scorer and that extra dman that we need, via UFA or trade, to plug the holes in the lineup and take the club up a notch.

Either way, he’s gone, and he didn’t even steal the face off my head . . .

A2B

November 23rd, 2010
10:48 am

As much as we all loved Kovy’s goals, the way it changed this team and forced an identity to it can’t be overlooked. As much as he didn’t do for this team he created the necessary change to create the team we have today. I love the direction this team is going and if this economy wasn’t so bad id buy more tickets because you can see the players finally are trusting each other and the coaches. Sorry, just had a chill go down my spine since I think thats the first time anyone here can really say that about an Atlanta Thrashers team.

Hokie P. Clisters

November 23rd, 2010
10:48 am

Well, we would at least gotten to enjoy a few more figure 8’s.

TableHockey

November 23rd, 2010
10:58 am

Thanks Rawhide – now I have more things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving!!

kracker

November 23rd, 2010
11:23 am

It is hard to say what would have transpired, Rawhide. I do feel some deal w/ the cap-strapped ‘Hawks would have gotten done because of the Chicago ties but who knows? And for who? If we had kept Kovy, then maybe our own first + somebody would have gone to Chicago for a quite good return and then it’s a diffferent team. Personally, though, my crystal ball is looking about as clear as a Magic 8-ball so I have no idea. Your guess, as you blogged it, is as good as any.

@not_CThorburn

November 23rd, 2010
11:25 am

Thanks, Rawhide, for the boost! The shudders that just went through my whole body made facing the Red Wings tomorrow seem like child’s play.

Chris

Diego from Lilburn

November 23rd, 2010
11:28 am

I’ll keep the team we have now, thank you very much.

Without a “superstar” the whole team is shooting more. Nobody looking for the $10m dollar man to pass to. Also, our Power Play is way better.

We really didn’t need someone to skate figure 8’s at the blue line and watch the rest of the team scrap for the puck against the boards.

I think we should all be thankful for the lineup we have now. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

(and Kracker it was good seeing you on the Marta train the other night!)

kracker

November 23rd, 2010
11:32 am

tweet – ajcthrashers #Thrashers practice lines the same except Meyer in for Little: 9-24-22, 21-8-80, 16-47-18, 36-23-27.

Meyer in for Little??!! Hopefully Bry just needed to go to the DMV or something.

Diego from Lilburn

November 23rd, 2010
11:34 am

Hey, iamtheratio,
My son just finished his first season of roller hockey in Snellville and, no kidding, I never even heard a parent YELL anything at a ref – much less try do something to one – all season long. I think some folks like the guy in the story have a HUGE misconception of what hockey is really like.

Thanks for posting that link!

Hoof Arted

November 23rd, 2010
11:37 am

This reminds me of a discussion I was having with a couple blog posters on Vivlamore’s blog the other day. There is an upside and a downside to “locking up” certain players longterm. I’m sure there would have been many who would have celebrated Kovalchuk’s re-signing and seen it as a major, positive step for this team.

But count me as one of those glad he’s someone else’s problem. That money will be better spent keeping Byfuglien and Ladd around beyong their current contracts.

I just caution against knee-jerk reactions when it comes to signing young players to 4 or 6 year deals simply because they’ve had a better than decent start in their short careers. But with Buff and Ladd, I would be far less worried about that.

Cornbread

November 23rd, 2010
11:44 am

I’d say the Thrashers would not have Burmistrov on the roster as well. Why? Because the Thrashers were playing very good hockey until Kapitan Kovy quit on the team well before he was traded. The Thrashers were a good enough team to make the playoffs. They would have picked higher than 8th. Burmi, even being another Russian, likely would have been playing elsewhere.

That said, I think the Thrashers can now take the best draft pick for their organization instead of being forced to take the “best player” available. Another luxury of picking high and building a team instead of an individual.

The Thrashers would have got some of the Black Hawks they now have but not all just because of Dudleys connections. You can also add Versteeg and Madden to that mix. They also would still likely have John Anderson as coach.

kracker

November 23rd, 2010
11:48 am

Nice to meet you, too, Diego!

Rawhide

November 23rd, 2010
11:49 am

I case you guys haven’t heard yet, the doors at Philips Arena will open at 3:30 on Sunday afternoon prior to the Bruins game. From 3:30 to 4:30 they will be serving up $1 hotdogs, pretzels and sodas.

Also remember, there is a Falcons game at 1:00 down at the dome…Packers are in town… so be forewarned about traffic and parking

Zombie Steve

November 23rd, 2010
11:51 am

This is the South…. misconceptions about hockey are par for the course around here

DCBrave33

November 23rd, 2010
11:54 am

Hey rawhide…I will be back in town for the holiday this week, and I was wondering if you know whether they Thrashers still have the Student/Military discount available. I could use it, the tickets I have had to purchase up here in DC to see us play against the Caps have always cost me a pretty penny. Thanks for the help. I just dont see anything on the teams official website that mentions it. Help is appreciated!

World Be Free

November 23rd, 2010
11:56 am

Dudley played with another superstar, Gilbert Perreault. G.P. was NEVER about the player, he was always about the team. So it is safe to say that Kovy is not a Dudley kind of guy, too much emphasis on the individual player. Not sure Kovy will consistently put up the numbers in NJ that he put up on ATL, just because he may not get the number of situations in NJ that he got here.

What gets to me is how the national hockey media still falls all over Kovalchuk as the King of New Jersey, even after his and his team’s slow start. New Jersey is getting old-Kovy got there 5 seasons too late!

Rawhide

November 23rd, 2010
12:04 pm

DCBrave33 – Hey, I just chatted with my rep and she’ll be happy to take care of you regarding your request. Call Karin at 404-878-3781. Tell her I sent ya.

kracker

November 23rd, 2010
12:05 pm

tweet – BenThrashers Alex Burmistrov might have a special greeting for his idol Pavel Datsyuk when they’re on the ice together tomorrow. http://bit.ly/fNW1I0

Looks like a nice article, I haven’t read it yet.

kracker

November 23rd, 2010
12:10 pm

hahaha Kovalchuk as the King of New Jersey. Why does that bring to mind the movie “The King of Marvin Gardens”? I remember it is set in New Jersey and is about low-level mobsters….but Jack Nicholson he aint.

World Be Free

November 23rd, 2010
12:17 pm

kracker-I better change that to King of the NJ Devils-don’t want to upset my Jersey buddies by making it appear that I am picking on the Garden State.

Thrashers27

November 23rd, 2010
12:22 pm

Throw me into the pile of folks who are glad to see Kovy gone. As exciting a player as he is, I’m much happier to see the “team” concept put into play.

Best of luck to you Kovy, but we don’t need ya.

Thrashers27

November 23rd, 2010
12:28 pm

Kracker,

The more you see/read of that Burmistrov kid, the more you gotta love him. He works his butt off on the ice, and he loves playing the game. You can see it in his eyes and in the $&!% eatin’ grin he wears.

KLS1

November 23rd, 2010
12:29 pm

The biggest difference is Ramsay actually putting in a system the whole team can play instead of trying to keep Kovy the center of the universe.

Everyone likes to see goals scored but anybody who has ever laced up skates and played knew Kovy was a total liability on all ends of the ice.

World Be Free

November 23rd, 2010
12:33 pm

Let me explain what I meant about Kovy and the number of situations in NJ-

Kovy was the focal point of the Thrashers, he was the team with his supporting players. When NJ came to ATL last season, I observed him as a member of the NJ Devils. He was not the focal point, not in all the key situations. We can expect his role to expand in NJ, but I doubt it will ever get to the size of the role he had in Atlanta. So with less chances, he will have to make more of the opportunities he gets. This is what he wanted and we should be glad he got it!

DCBrave33

November 23rd, 2010
12:36 pm

Thanks Rawhide!!! I appreciate the help!

Smitty

November 23rd, 2010
12:52 pm

Patrick Stefan, Danny Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuck, Kari Lehtonen, Alex Bouret. I wonder if Duds would have drafted any of these guys given the character of the players he has drafted the last couple of years. I wonder if DW ever spoke with or interviewed any of the aforementioned players or their coaches. I am not saying Duds would have passed on drafting them, but I think a little more research would have been done.

Duds has missed on a few drafts but I do not think he would have laid as many eggs. As for the possibilities of Kovy still being here, it is one more thing to be thankful for.

DWTOO

November 23rd, 2010
12:55 pm

The King of New Jersey is Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band. Calling this slacker “King” is an insult to saxaphone players everywhere.

If we had kept Kovy think it would be more of the same thing we’ve seen over the years – except more pouting as Rammer seems inlcined to sit non-producers or hustlers. Think we got the better part of the deal and the additions we were able to make we are a stronger team.

World Be Free

November 23rd, 2010
1:11 pm

DWTOO-I was sarcastically calling Kovy “King of Jersey”; I believe this was his, Grossbags and Lou’s intension was to crown him king. No argument here on the true identity of “The Big Man” as you have noted.

Smitty-I think Duds would have faired between, but that’s history.

rob

November 23rd, 2010
1:14 pm

I for one, will be thankful when IK has been gone long enough that the only thing we chat about is how we laugh at the continued ineptness of a certain #17. I wish him no luck, he is an anchor we have cast off somehow, and given to NJ. The NHL would be wise to see that he is not going to be the next great marketing tool ala 0-vechkin or Crosby,,,,and even as good as they are they still need strong TEAMS around them to succeed. This is a team sport more so than almost any other, and IK will serve as a glaring example of that. All of his “great” goals and he is still a colossal failure.
Let’s look forward from our mistakes and thank our lucky graces that this happened the way it did, in spite of the ineptitude of the Octotards.

DWTOO

November 23rd, 2010
1:20 pm

Just pulling your chain WBF – glad someone knew who I was referring to – the man can make that horn sing!

Red Light

November 23rd, 2010
1:31 pm

Ah, the saga of Ilya Kovalchuk continues to rear its ugly head. People still like to place blame on the players who opted to go elsewhere, but not a single one of them was the root cause of the past problems here. Yes, of course, had all who departed given 150 percent effort during their lame-duck status, each of us would still be lamenting their departures, rather than castigating them for doing so. But, to answer Rawhde’s question, the current team and the franchise itself is better off without Kovalchuk, because of the pieces they got in return, and the ability to make other deals. All that said, the current team remains on the fringe of competing for a playoff spot, but as long as where playing the “What If?” game my question is this…

What if the Thrashers were able to retain Kovalchuk, and then add the four guys from Chicago? Now, that would have been something to see!

TrueBlue

November 23rd, 2010
1:31 pm

I have a feeling that we would not have drafted Burmistrov had Kovy still been here…Also, I don’t think we would have picked up Modin and they MIGHT have kept Max around….Ya never know.

SomaAtl95

November 23rd, 2010
1:36 pm

After the trade I remember quoting Christmas Vacation on this here blog and changing the names to D-Wad and the Octocluster, I was mad at the time (as most of us were) and I want to take it back. Not all of it though – they are still cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dic*less, hopeless, heartless, fat-a$$, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sacks of monkey s***! But they did good with Dudley and for the first time since hockey came to Atlanta we have a complete team – It just took poaching last years cup winners to do so. Hell, I am happy that TSN.ca’s power rankings is so positive on the Thrashers this week. So I take it back – DWad and the Cluster aren’t bug-eyed.

Alan R.

November 23rd, 2010
1:40 pm

Hoof – That’s … well, not exactly what you said on Chris’ blog, is it?

Essentially, you said you like short contracts because you think it makes the players play harder for their next deal. You also went way off into left field by comparing the wishes of fans to lock up Byfuglien and Ladd to the contracts that were given to White and Hainsey.

I’d go into this further, but I’m pretty sure most people who read this blog, also read Chris’, and saw what was said over there.

rob

November 23rd, 2010
1:41 pm

R/L,
The Octotards are surely to blame for all of this mess, and maybe in bringing in Duds they are seeing they have much to atone for, but watching IK in NJ and the fact that things there are certainly not the yellow brick road he thought it would be makes me think it may well have been the same here also, if not worse because only Hartley here seemed to see that IK needs guidance in order to become the rounded complete player who could command the respect he thinks he already deserves. If he had become a true team player then yes, he may have been scary here with the rest but not “as is”.

World Be Free

November 23rd, 2010
1:51 pm

DWTOO-there’s only 1 Big Man!

Zombie Steve

November 23rd, 2010
2:36 pm

All we need now is Arthur Blank to swoop in and buy out the Octodouches. Imagine the possibilities…

Joe Friday

November 23rd, 2010
2:44 pm

He’d look pretty cool standing there next to Ramsay in the 3rd period . . .

Seasoned Thrashers Season Ticket Holder

November 23rd, 2010
3:17 pm

Frankly, I got sick of throwing my money away on season tickets to watch Kovalchuk rob his bosses of NHL player to be a one-dimensional (which was most of the time) who only played defense when he felt like it (which WASN’T most of the time).

I am glad Kovy is gone and is now the Devils’ problem.

Burn in Hell, Kovalchuk!

( Since he already lives in that flaming cesspool known as New Jersey and plays for a team called the Devils, is saying that redundant? )

Seasoned Thrashers Season Ticket Holder

November 23rd, 2010
3:33 pm

Wow. From the looks of that first post, I’m drunk for Thanksgiving already!

Frankly, I got sick of throwing my money away on season tickets to watch Kovalchuk rob his bosses of an NHL paycheck to be a one-dimensional player (which was most of the time) who only played defense when he felt like it (which WASN’T most of the time).

I am glad Kovy is gone and is now the Devils’ problem.

I’d rather watch a Hockey TEAM than “Kovalchuk and a Bunch of Guys Trying Keep the Puck Out of Our Own Net.”

Burn in Hell, Kovalchuk!

( Since he already lives in that flaming cesspool known as New Jersey and plays for a team called the Devils, is saying that redundant? )

Red Light

November 23rd, 2010
3:51 pm

That’s a great one Joe Friday!

While we going there, I can see it all now with the “best owner in sports” at the helm.
1) ticket prices lowered
2) playoff appearance
3) ticket prices raised
4) another losing season
5) playoff appearance
6) playoffs missed
7) playoffs missed and coach fired
8 ) playoffs missed and a new GM
9) playoff appearance
10) playoffs missed and division rival wins championship
11) Best record in the conference, talk of a new stadium, beaten again in the playoffs?

I guess when expectations are so low, the above looks like Nirvana.

Hoof Arted

November 23rd, 2010
3:53 pm

Alan R., Yes, that’s what I said over there and that’s still how I feel. Like I said above, I caution against jumping to sign a young player to a long contract simply becuase of a good run early in his career. I do like keeping those kids hungry.

Nothing worse that locking up a player for several years based on projected potential and then being saddled with it if the actual performance didn’t live up to the expectations.

I used White and Hainsey as examples becuase they have been blasted on these blogs for their soft play (rightfully so for the most part) and many have bemoaned how long we were stuck with them for.

However in the case of Ladd and Buff I beleive they are exceptions to the rule and would have no problem signing them each for 3 or 4 years.

Alan R.

November 23rd, 2010
4:08 pm

However in the case of Ladd and Buff I beleive they are exceptions to the rule and would have no problem signing them each for 3 or 4 years.

Glad we got through to you. :P

Hokie P. Clisters

November 23rd, 2010
4:16 pm

Burmistrov is the pill for the Kovalchuk chill.

Hoof Arted

November 23rd, 2010
4:22 pm

Spud Webb

November 23rd, 2010
4:26 pm

Exactly RL, I’ll take that and RUUUUUN with it. Blank would make a winner out of this thing for sure. Might take him a bit, as with the falcons and how to do it the “right” way, but make no mistake, the guy is no Dan Snyder. He lets his people football people make decisions and keeps writing the checks. It took him some time to get the right folks in the right spots, but it’s working. Yes, I like the falcons, but if they have to go on the road in January to say NY or Philly…