Ilya Kovalchuk remains the hot subject in the NHL rumor mill, but Thrashers GM Don Waddell insists he wants to get the veteran sniper under contract.
Waddell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution trading Kovalchuk is an option – but not his first one – maintaining his priority is still to re-sign the superstar.
Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy had an interesting take on the matter, rejecting the notion that failing to re-sign Kovalchuk could be disastrous for the Thrashers.
Brophy points out the club hasn’t won anything with Kovalchuk since he joined the club in 2001-02, noting the team has in recent years been near the bottom of the league in overall attendance and sits 28th overall this season despite their improved performance.
He goes on to suggest the Thrashers might be better off without the talented Russian winger, noting the squad has a good mix of rising talent (Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom and Bryan Little) and skilled veterans (Rich Peverley, Maxim Afinogenov and Nik Antropov), which might be enough to make a run for this year’s playoffs.
Waddell should be able to get a solid return for Kovalchuk to help both the short and long term, particularly if a high first round pick was included. But, if the Thrashers remain in the playoff chase the GM could just as soon decide to keep Kovalchuk, even if he’s unsigned.
Kovalchuk, meanwhile, insists his focus is on his performance and helping the Thrashers make the playoffs, adding he doesn’t wish for his contract talks to become a distraction and remains optimistic a deal can be reached.
• Anaheim Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer has been the subject of trade rumors for the past several weeks, some suggesting he might ask to be dealt back to the New Jersey Devils, where he won three of his four Stanley Cups.
Ducks GM Bob Murray dismissed those rumors, recently telling the Los Angeles Times he had no intention of moving the blueliner even if the Ducks fall out of the playoff race by the March 3 trade deadline.
Murray also said Niedermayer hopes to retire as a Duck, so unless the defenseman changes his mind that’s the way it’s going to be.
While that stance might be difficult for some to grasp, it is understandable why Niedermayer would want to stay put. His family has lived in Anaheim since 2005 and at this point has no reason to leave them behind to pursue a fifth Stanley Cup elsewhere.
Niedermayer is happily settled in California and has nothing left to prove in his long, productive NHL career.
• The St. Louis Post-Dispatchsuggests keeping an eye on the status of Minnesota Wild winger Petr Sykora and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Andrej Meszaros as both have been healthy scratches of late.
It’s possible the Wild will move Sykora at the trade deadline as he hasn’t worked out as well as they had hoped when they signed him last fall, but Meszaros has four more years at a cap hit of $4 million per season left on his contract, making him all but impossible to move if the Lightning were to consider going that route.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.