With a little more than a month to go until the trade deadline, now is the time to start hashing out deals for your favorite players.
Just don’t include Ilya Kovalchuk in a Flyers uniform.
Despite numerous reports to the contrary, including a Twitter post from USA Today yesterday, multiple team and league sources have told the Daily News that the Flyers are not interested in acquiring Kovalchuk from Atlanta.
That means tonight – unless Kovalchuk lands somewhere in the Eastern Conference – is likely Kovalchuk’s one and only appearance at the Wachovia Center this season.
Kovalchuk is slated to be an unrestricted free agent come July 1 and said he is finished negotiating a possible extension with the Thrashers, who have made the playoffs just once in franchise history.
Kovalchuk, 26, has racked up 613 points in 591 career games – all as a Thrasher, since he was picked No. 1 overall in the 2001 Entry Draft. He leads Atlanta with 30 goals this season.
If the Florida Panthers’ handling of Jay Bouwmeester – a similar soon-to-be unrestricted free agent – before last year’s deadline serves as a lesson, Atlanta GM Don Waddell would be wise to move his most valuable asset.
Sitting just points out of the playoff race, Florida didn’t receive offers with pieces they saw fit for Bouwmeester and decided to keep him for the stretch run. They lost a tiebreaker with Montreal for the 8th and final playoff spot.
They ended up moving Bouwmeester to Calgary for basically nothing: Jordan Leopold, also an unrestricted free agent, and a 3rd round pick during last summer’s Draft.
Atlanta, just one point behind the Flyers heading into tonight’s game, can’t afford a similar fate. It would cripple their already weak franchise.
The bottom line: Kovalchuk is simply too rich for the Flyers. They would need to tear apart their roster to fit Kovalchuk’s $6.389 salary cap hit.
And that’s just to use him as a rental for the remainder of this season.
As Toronto general manager Brian Burke said yesterday on the radio, “I’m not making that phone call.”
Burke said that Kovalchuk has reportedly declined a 10-year extension worth $85 million.
USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen tweeted yesterday “If the Philadelphia Flyers want Kovalchuk, I believe they can be first in line. They have prospects and veterans they can move.”
Any team, at this point, could be first in line. The interest has seemingly, like Bouwmeester, a lot of hype. Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago are a few of the other teams rumored to be interested in Kovalchuk.
Atlanta has not – and will not, according to published reports – give an interested team the option of negotiating a contract extension before the trade is made.
He has always seemed destined to test the free agent waters at his first opportunity to leave Atlanta, a city that averages just 13,348 for hockey.
It is worthwhile to point out that though he is Atlanta's captain, Kovalchuk has never been heralded as a good teammate. That's important for a team looking to add him to the mix.
Would it be worth the Flyers sacrificing a few prospects (in an already bare cupboard) – and throwing the chemistry that has accumulated in their locker room – up in the air to land Kovalchuk for the final 20 games?
That’s a tough sell, even for a team that's always interested in the NHL’s biggest names.
Follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DNFlyers for the latest updates.