January 11, 2010 :: 7:33pm ET
Worth every penny
By David Pagnotta,
[TORONTO, ON] -- Proposals have been
exchange. Offers have been presented. Air miles and cell phone bills
continue to pile up.
It's clear the Atlanta Thrashers want Ilya Kovalchuk locked up to a
new contract, but just how badly they are able to sign their captain
long-term is another matter.
Thrashers GM Don Waddell and Kovalchuk's agent Jay Grossman speak on
an almost-daily basis. There's no doubting the fact these two men are
trying to smooth out any rough patches in these negotiations.
Unfortunately, it seems whenever one area is taken care of, another
With all the new contracts floating around the league these days, you
can't fault any high-end player for asking for a 10-12 year deal.
Given the recent contracts players like Alex Ovechkin (13-years),
Duncan Keith (13-years), Marian Hossa (12-years) and Mike Richards
(12-years) have received, nobody should blame Kovalchuk for wanting a
10+ year term.
to well-placed sources, the Thrashers have pitched several multi-year
offers that would make Kovalchuk the highest-paid player in the NHL.
While that may seem fine and dandy on the surface, it's become evident
the 26-year-old superstar is interested in signing a deal beyond a
seven-year term worth market value.
Read the last part of that sentence again... I repeat: Worth market
Something that's been misconstrued in all these Kovalchuk stories
lately is the fact that he can become an unrestricted free agent July
1. Think about that for a second; a player of Kovalchuk's caliber, at
the age of only 27, hitting the open market as a UFA. It's never
If the Thrashers are already offering him significant dollars near the
$10 million mark, annually, what's to say another team isn't willing
to step up with either a long-term deal or a more lucrative contract
As good as Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are, there's nothing wrong with
Kovalchuk receiving a higher annual salary. The Capitals were happy
signing Ovechkin to a 13-year contract, just as the Pittsburgh
Penguins were pleased to have Crosby locked up to a five-year
extension. I can tell you one thing, regardless of what Kovalchuk
receives, Crosby will trump him.
But for now, a 10-year deal in excess of $10 million per season isn't
far fetched. It's extremely realistic and someone will step to be
It appears, however, as if the Thrashers are unable to get a deal
done, and it's not necessarily for a lack of trying.
As I stated earlier, Waddell and Co. have presented a number of
different offers, but they fall far from what Kovalchuk is looking
for, term wise.
I understand where the Thrashers are coming from, and it's extremely
unfortunate. Their ownership group is, for lack of a better term, a
mess. The Thrashers have been trying to lure additional investors, but
it's been a difficult sell. Add to that the uncertainty of Kovalchuk
sticking around beyond this season and you're in a very tough
At the same time, Kovalchuk is concerned with the future of the
franchise and isn't interested in a short-term fix (or contract).
Kovalchuk, Grossman, Waddell and part owner Bruce Levenson all got
together at the end of October to map out a game plan. According to a
source, it was the first time the green light was given to start
Instead of jumping at the chance to sign Kovalchuk right away, the
team was focused on bringing in new investors and it took two months
before contract negotiations finally picked up.
It's a little hard to fault the Thrashers given their predicament, but
two months? That's very valuable time lost because of outside factors.
This isn't the first time the club's ownership group has gotten in the
way of taking the team to the next level. They failed to keep Hossa or
Marc Savard, or add any replacements that mirror their talent level.
I'm not going to sit here and blame Kovalchuk, or any other player,
for wanting security. I can't. You can't. And you can't use money as
an argument, either -- he'll get the big bucks somewhere else. He
isn't just in it for the money. Everyone knows it's coming. As much as
he loves Atlanta, Kovalchuk wants to build long-term success with any
team he plays for and if the Thrashers aren't in a position to sign
him beyond a five- or seven-year deal, then it's time to make a move.
If the Capitals refused to sign Ovechkin for more than five-years, how
thrilled do you think their fans would have been knowing he wanted to
stay in Washington for 13 more seasons?
Kovalchuk's made it clear. He wants to stay in Atlanta long-term. In
today's contract world, that's no longer seven seasons.
Contract negotiations will remain ongoing, but trade talks will
undoubtedly pick up. A new deal isn't out of the question, but don't
be surprised to see Kovalchuk sporting another jersey come March.
is the Editor-in-Chief of
The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the
NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a
contributing writer for NBCSports.com and MSNBC.