Kovalchuk probably won’t have new deal before opener

If Ilya Kovalchuk doesn't get a new contract, don't bet on the Thrashers' future. (AP photo)

If Thrashers can't make deal with Ilya Kovalchuk, don't bet on future.

With the franchise looking for any opportunity to get on the Atlanta sports landscape, the Thrashers would love to be able to announce before Saturday’s season opener that they have signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a new contract, preferably at a season-ticket holder function Thursday night. But one of the guys negotiating the deal said he doesn’t expect that to happen.

Immediately following a news conference Wednesday, during which he basically expressed optimism that a new deal would be reached soon, Thrashers general manager Don Waddell acknowledged: “I don’t think it’s going to get done before opening night. We’re going to talk again in the next 24 hours, but I don’t see it getting done.”

No pressure. It might be only the future of hockey in Atlanta that weighs in the balance.

This morning, I weighed in on the Hawks’ Joe Johnson’s decision to play out the final year of his contract and test free agency. Honestly, I find that no big deal. That’s not the case with Kovalchuk. Johnson still has to prove he’s an elite player in his league. Kovalchuk is already there in his.

The Hawks are not going to move or fold without Johnson. The Thrashers without Kovalchuk? Who knows? People buy tickets for two reasons: 1) To watch a winner; 2) To watch stars. You’re aware of the Thrashers’ history. Nobody is going to assume they’re a winner until it happens. And if you don’t win, you can’t attract stars, or fans.

For the record, Waddell remains “very confident” a deal will get done.

“I don’t think we’ll be talking about this at Christmas time,” he said.

Where are talks on a scale of 1 to 10?

“Eight,” he said.

Sometimes, those last two will kill you.

The good news is, negotiations between Waddell and agent Jay Grossman have been free of public verbal hand grenades. Waddell has upgraded the roster this off-season, ostensibly to try to convince Kovalchuk to re-sign. But even with upgrades, nobody is going to confuse Atlanta with an NHL power. And let’s face it: Kovalchuk has all the power. He can have his pick of teams. He doesn’t have to stay here.

Kovalchuk didn’t seem concerned about the talks.

“We have a lot of time. I have a year left,” he said.

He can afford to say that. The franchise can’t afford to be so nonchalant.

24 comments Add your comment


September 30th, 2009
3:03 pm

Unfortunately, Kovy is the only player on the team that the average Atlanta sprts fan knows. If he goes, and the team fails to make the playoffs, Blueland will become Emptyland in 2010-2011.


September 30th, 2009
3:12 pm

This does not bode well for the future of this franchise. If too much time slips by without a deal, and the Thrashers aren’t gelling early, Kovy may pull the “focused on the season, not the contract” card, and then unless significant improvement isn’t made beyond that, it may be not only “Adios, Kovy”, but also “Adios Thrashers”. This is really a downer to start the season, especially after so many strong moves that could greatly improve this franchise. Hopefully, they get something done and soon.

the Sports Buffet

C. Tampa Ironworse

September 30th, 2009
3:14 pm

While I agree that the ATL needs a star…is Kovy really the one we want? I’d almost like to see the Thrashers go the Marlins route and strip the team down. They can’t be much worse and maybe we find the star we’re looking for. Crosby was a gift to Pittsburgh…ATL will get no such favors. Win and they will come. Unless it’s an American or a player from Canada that speaks english well…the NHL is the one league where winning and scoring a BUNCH of goals stirs the drink. I hope they succeed…we need big time hockey in this town.

Tale of Woe

September 30th, 2009
3:41 pm

C. Tampa Ironworse – Haven’t the Thrashers already done that? Haven’t we played with a striped down team the past 10 years?


September 30th, 2009
3:43 pm

I love hockey, once bought Flames season tickets; but ATL has never been a strong hockey town. If Kovy goes, the franchise will suffer. If you thought the Spirit had a hard time drawing WITH Kov, let them see who will come without him. The Thrashers would never survive a strip-down ala the Marlins.
IMHO, Kovy wants to win, and with all the annual “especially after so many strong moves that could greatly improve this franchise” news that never translate into better seasons; I doubt he will stay. The management of this franchise has been a travesty. The fact that Kov. is the only star left from so many early draft picks and “strong moves” is the most glaring indication. I certainly hope that when ATL no longer has an NHL franchise the fans aren’t held to blame.

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 30th, 2009
3:43 pm

Maybe the fact they haven’t been negotiating in the media is a good sign. The longer it goes though, the less likely I think he is to sign.


September 30th, 2009
3:51 pm

Why would Ilya want to stay here as long as he knows that Don Waddell, who is as incompetent as Willie Martinez, seems to be a deeply entrenched as Willie Martinez, meaning, because of the ownership, he’s not going anywhere.

Jeff, I have a feeling, that as much as we, the few remaining Thrasher fans, have seen our hopes been beaten into submission by the abject stupidity of this man, that Ilya has to fee even worse, even more betrayed, even more angry at Waddell than we ever could.

I hope against hope Ilya stays, but if I were him, and I saw that slack-jawed face staring back at me from across the bargaining table, I’d be on the first plane to Detroit, or Chicago, or Montreal, or Pittsburgh.


September 30th, 2009
4:01 pm

How confident was he the thrashers would have even a single playoff win 10 years ago? 8?


September 30th, 2009
4:11 pm


September 30th, 2009
3:03 pm

“Unfortunately, Kovy is the only player on the team that the average Atlanta sprts fan knows.”

Hell, he’s the only Thrasher player a knowledgeable NHL fan knows!


September 30th, 2009
4:20 pm

And a general comment here. especially considering the beating Braves fans have been getting for not showing up at Turner Field, but also applies to Phillips Arena: for strictly, and unreasonable, political reasons all the major sports venues have been forced to remain downtown, while fans screamed for a more desirable location. Then the fans are blamed for not attending the games like we are a herd of lemmings willing to go wherever the politicos choose to send us. How else can we protest against the insistance of the powers-that-be to ignore our views? “Well, we won’t put a MARTA stop at the stadium; the fans will come anyway. And if they don’t, we’ll just blame them and put the guilt trip on their shoulders.” How ignorant and vain!

Paul H

September 30th, 2009
4:21 pm

The thing about the football game this weekend – oh wait is this column about hockey? Geez never mind…


September 30th, 2009
4:27 pm

I have season tickets and live 2 blocks from phillips, then again…I don’t see anyone else walking to games with me except the occasional Tech student. It would suck for me but the location for hockey needs to be OTP.


September 30th, 2009
4:54 pm

The Thrashers are probably the best candidate for relocation in the NHL regardless of signing their franchise player but if they do not resign him, the franchise is toast. The current owners have destroyed any chance hockey had to survive in Atlanta.

I went through this with the Flames and see the same ending near. Twenty nine years ago the NHL had no decent TV contract and ticket sales were not enough to sustain the franchise. Today the NHL has no decent TV deal and ticket sales will not sustain the franchise. The only difference is the Flames actually sold a larger percentage of their gate than the Thrashers are selling today.

I fear the great NHL experiment with southern hockey is coming to an end as most, if not all, southern hockey franchises are struggling.


September 30th, 2009
6:19 pm

Poll: Most incompetent sports figure in local sports.

Criteria: Must weigh the individual’s accomplishments versus expectations and that person’s weight on team performance (in other words, Greg Norton doesn’t qualify):

Don Waddell

Willie Martinez

Jamaal Anderson

Bobby Cox

Rich McKay

Paul Hewitt

Write In

Your votes?

Mine is Hewitt

Jeff Schultz

September 30th, 2009
6:29 pm

Rich — Obviously I agree. Thrashers have some good young players but Ilya is their only identifiable piece in the city.

C Tampa — Strip the team down? It’s not like the Thrashers have a veteran and star laden roster now.

Bugkiller — Have no idea what’s inside Ilya’s head right now. But he’s saying all the right things.


September 30th, 2009
6:45 pm

Thrashers can not and will not survive without Kovy. It’ll be more empty than Turner Field last night at Phillips without him. Whatever he wants, give it to him. Asking if he is the right star for us is a joke- if Hossa didn’t want to stay here- what makes you think we could attract another star? Kovy at least has an attachment to the Thrashers.


September 30th, 2009
7:51 pm

Enter your comments hereKovy will sign and sign soon.


October 1st, 2009
3:50 am

Can someone tell me if there is one sports team in Atlanta that Atlanta actually supports? The Thrashers, obviously no, The Hawks had to scramble to sell playoff tickets this past year, the Falcons “sell out” but always have a ton of no shows at their games and before Blank the team was always blacked out,and as we have seen this week they don’t support the Braves either. Georgia Tech games never sell out as well. So Atlanta, I ask you this, just what team do you support? Does the Atlanta Dream sell out every game and I’m just not aware of it?

Seriously move the damn teams to Charlotte or Raleigh or somewhere in the south that they actually might care about them.


October 1st, 2009
8:48 am

Everyone needs to watch the preseason little meeting with waddell and Anderson. waddell’s head is looking down 90% of the time, only when he drinks from his water bottle does he look up.He knows it’s over for #17 & himself, NOBODY else to blame except waddell for the teams meltdown which is just days away !

He is THE SOLE reason this franchise SUCKS. Nobody in the league
says we will make the playoffs. Last night on NHL channel, they asked the two explayers, Murphy & Weeks, will this be the year the Atlanta Thrashers make the playoffs… ANSWER… NO !

I cannot believe waddell thinks this team can win, the defesne still STINKS, Kubina is no fix it and the same goalie team is going to be more like last season all over again.

Look at the preseason and esp… the final flop at Philips against Tampa.

Ilya is NOT going to even resign here, he wants to WIN, waddell is a CAREER LOSER, just check the record please, he has NEVER won NEVER.
He has had ten years to improve this team, he let Hossa go, he let Savard go, he traded Colburn and on and on and on.

He simply is NOT qualified to be a NHL GM, let alone run a 7/11 store, he is not knowledgeable about hockey and is so far out of his league it is not funny.

Then these F—ing owners, are a sham, levenson lies all the time and the others most likely forgot the have an NHL team… Remember the
famous words of that slimeball rutherford snydel on opening night two years ago…” We are doing everything to bring the Stanley Cup to Atlanta.” Right out at center ice, what a LIAR he is, total and complete LIAR.

Face it folks, this team will be sold and moved before the playoffs ever come back, it is very sad to see, but as long as the man with NO brain waddell is in charge we will never win, he LIES & SUCKS.

Thanks waddell, as I have said before YOU have all but destroyed hockey in Atlanta and the look on your face yesterday told the tale, you know this team stinks and you know #17 will NEVER resign and then, HOPEFULLY you will FINALLY be FIRED like you should have been after season 4, you are a loser and will always be that waddell, you stink !


October 1st, 2009
5:40 pm

Till dumb Waddell is fired this team be havin a 6 year rebuildin year every time….Pittsburgh won cup for reason a great GN n a great owner in Mario Lem. and good coachin n a new arena soon they be in stanley cup alot. We here in atlanta gets a GM who is bland n bitter to taste. Look Phoenix is in trouble n may move back to Quebec not this year and return as the Quebec Norqs…..others wise in blueland its snoozeland here


October 2nd, 2009
5:27 pm

The Thrashers would do fine here if they wouldn’t have alienated their fan base. The ownership, and refusal to move on from Waddell, is what will kill hockey in Atlanta. Losing Kovy would obviously be the last straw, but if we sign him and make WIN A PLAYOFF SERIES this year. Things will be looking up.

If we fail AGAIN and lose Kovy, it’s all but over sadly. I love hockey, and there are tons of people in this city/state that do as well, but the owernship and management has killed this team.

Get The Puck Out

October 3rd, 2009
8:21 am

I think Kovy will resign, but it will be a two year contract. Just long enough to see if this team is going in the right direction, and if it looks like they are improving and management shows improvement i think he will sign long term. I also think with the addition of the defensive players added i think a trade for a first tier goalie is in the near future. I am hopeful for this year.


October 4th, 2009
10:48 am

Geez, Jeff’s followers are even more negative than him. I didn’t think that was possible. Put it all aside for a day and hope that last night’s game was a sign of good things to come this year. I would argue that some of the younger players are making themselves “recognizable” as this seasons starts. Just remember the Penguins were a pitiful team not that long ago. Along with that, there was the threat of relocation. Their Stanley Cup team was re-built around youth.

[...] 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 [...]