January 3, 2009 // 10:56am ET
Kovalchuk decision looming

Ilya Kovalchuk's future with Atlanta is expected to be determined this week, as a decision related to his next contract with the Thrashers could come as early as Monday.

Thrashers GM Don Waddell met with Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, this weekend in Saskatoon, SK (location of the World Junior Championship) to discuss a long-term contract extension and the two sides are expected to chat again today.

During Saturday night's "The Hotstove" segment on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, the panel indicated that Waddell will be returning to Atlanta tomorrow and wants an answer by then.

Panelist Pierre LeBrun, also of ESPN, claimed that if a contract is not reached, "there will be teams lined up to try and trade for this guy."

The Chicago Blackhawks are among the teams supposedly interested in Kovalchuk. According to CBC, the Hawks would be willing to part with some of their high-priced players, such as Cam Barker and Kris Versteeg, in an attempt to fix their cap problems.

Waddell has said on numerous occasions that he will not entertain trade offers until a decision to move Kovalchuk has been made. In addition to the Hawks, the Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers have already been linked to having interest in Atlanta's captain.

[ From the Editor ]
Kovalchuk and Grossman have told me several times that Atlanta is Ilya's No.1 choice. He truly wants to stay in Atlanta, but he wants to be treated fairly and receive market value. I don't really blame him. Will he take a little less to stay in Atlanta, as opposed to what he'd receive on the open market this summer? I would like so. However, it doesn't sound like the Thrashers want to dish out the same $9.5 million the Capitals gave Alex Ovechkin. It's going to be a very interesting week in Atlanta, one way or another. As for the Blackhawks' interest... yes, they may be interested, but the benefits are two-fold. First, it frees them of their proximity to the cap by moving some of those players. Second, it brings in a tremendous rental player (which is what Kovalchuk would be), to help them in their run for the Stanley Cup. Chicago won't be the only team knocking on Waddell's door, though. Every team in the league will place at least one phone call. -- David Pagnotta

Visit David Pagnotta's TWITTER page for frequent comments and updates.


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