Kovalchuk to the Canucks


Following up on my previous rumors on Kovalchuk to the Canucks for the Sedins.

At the time of my post July 7, 2008, few believed that this make sense at all, and that Waddell will not trade away their franchise player. But as recent news surrounding the imminent exit of Kovalchuk from Atlanta heats up, I think it’s worth a shot to re-look at the possibility for the Canucks to land one the top-five forwards in the entire hockey world.

A news article yesterday from The Atlanta Journal-Consitution by Mark Bradley suggested that perhaps now is the best time for the team to trade away Kovalchuk. Bradley indicated that despite being the most reliable and productive player in the Thrasher’s roster year-after-year, the all-star player’s numbers in terms of point-production and shots-per-game have dropped drastcially this season.

Bradley related this to Ilya’s lack of interest for playing for the bottom-of-the-league Thrashers. Who could blame him?

Kovalchuk, ever since drafted first overall in 2001 (he was in fact the first Russian player to be drafted 1st overall in the entire NHL history), has been loyal and patient with the developing team. He showed that by signing a 5-year extension in 2005, and then almost single-handedly took the team to its first playoff in the 06-07 season. (only to be swept by the Rangers in 4 games)

So ok, he wants out, but what would this kind of deal looks like in today’s market? A young franchise player, who is considered one of the best left-winger (if not THE best) in the league, who has never have fewer than 40 goals ever since 2003, capturing two 50-goal seasons, and one Rocket “Richard” trophy.

In the past, pre-salary-cap era, we’ve seen something similiar in the Lindros-Forsberg trade. Eric Lindros, drafted 1st overall in 1991 by the Quebec Nordiques refused to played for the team, and was forced to be traded. During those times when blockbuster trades like this involves arbitration, the Philidelphia Flyers won the bid over the New York Rangers.

Let’s take a look at what the Nordique got in return for their franchise player:

The Flyers offered:

Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, 1st rounder in 93 (Thibault), 1st rounder in 94 (Baumgartner), and 15-million dollars in CASH!!!!

8 players & plenty of dough for just one Eric Lindros.

It’s almost as interesting to take a look at what the Arbitrator turned down from the Rangers:

Doug Weight, Tony Amonte, Alexei Kovalev, John Vanbiesbrouck, 1st rounder in 93 (8th overall – Niklas Sundstrom), 1st rounder in 94 (26th overall – Dan Cloutier), 1st rounder in 95 (13th overall – J.S. Giguere*), and 12-million dollars in cash.

*In 95, the rangers have the 13th overall pick, but via trades, that pick eventually went to Hartford, the team which drafted Giguere.

The Rangers’ offer were deemed unfair, and taking an advantage over Nordiques!!!!!

Of course, as it turns out, both teams that didn’t have Lindros in their line-up went on to become Stanley Cup Champions. (Rangers 93-94, Avalanche 95-96 & 00-01)

Well, times have changed, but the principle remains the same, teams are willing to give-up half of their roster for a franchise player. And you must admit, playera of Kovalchuk’s calibre don’t grow on trees everyday.

But for reference, let’s look at a similar trade in the Post-Cap era, in fact, just last Feb, also involving the Thrashers, in the Marian Hossa trade:

Marian Hossa (RW)
– an impending UFA by season end
– four years older than Kovalchuk
– drafted 12th overall in 1997
– never had a 50-goal season, but he has one 100-point season
– 7-million dollars in salary before contract expired

Hossa, who can also easily be considered a franchise player, looks weaker on paper compared to Kovalchuk, especially in terms of his contract.

This is what Atlanta got for Hossa:

Pittsburgh Penguins
Marian Hossa (RW)
Pascal Dupuis (D)

Atlanta Thrashers
Colby Armstrong, 26 (RW) 21th overall 2001
Erik Christensen, 25 (C, LW)
Angelo Esposito, 19 (C) 20th overall pick 2007
1st rounder 2008 (Daulton Leveille)

Pretty steep for an impending-UFA, considering Pittsburgh has no way of ensuring Hossa re-signing with the team, which he didn’t (Hossa signed with Detroit, 08 Stanely Cup Champion and Pittsburgh’s Cup Final rival). It’s agreed that Dupuis was probably an insurance clause for the deal.

So what would a deal look like for Kovalchuk? The team which gets him still have plenty of time to sign or trade him, and with the lack of natural LW sniper in the league, and so many teams needing offensive help, the offer can surely resemble the Lindros trade.

I believe that, if Vancouver is to have any chance of trading for Kovalchuk, the offer will at least include: a top-six roster player with a longer contract, a top-end prospect, a solid back-up goalie or goalie-prospect, one to two first rounder, and maybe one role-playing player.

Translated into Vancouver terms, will look something like this:

Vancouver Canucks
Ilya Kovalchuk

Atlanta Thrashers
Kevin Bieska
Cody Hogdson
Cory Schneider
Ryan Kesler
1st Rounder in 09
1st Rounder in 10

The reason why the Sedins aren’t included is simply because they are of no value to the Thrashers, with their contract expiring by the end of this season. There’s no way the brothers will sign back with a bottom-feeder team like Atlanta, and they have no rental value for the team at this moment.

Demitra is a possibility, but it doesn’t look too well for the management, since if Atlanta wanted him, and if he’s willing to play for the team, they would’ve signed him in the off-season.

Bernier cannot be moved until next year (offer sheet). Raymond has good potential, but cannot be considered the center-piece of the trade, he can replace Kesler in the deal.

As for why I’ve chosen a defenseman as the center-piece in Kevin Bieska, is because Mathieu Schneider is getting old, and will be an UFA by season end. A player like Bieska, signed to a long-term contract, can easily be their foundation in the back end. Bieska and Hainsey will be their core to build on top, if the team is to have any success in the future.

Will you make this deal? How does this look to you:

Kovalchuk – Wellwood – Demitra
Sedin – Sedin – Bernier
Burrows – Raymond – Hansen
Hordichuk – Johnson – Pyatt

Ohlund – Salo
Mitchell – Edler
O’Brien – Davison


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