We have been hearing a lot of rumors about the Canucks calling Don Waddell on Kovalchuk. But seriously, who isn’t?
We are talking about a 26-yr-old former first overall pick, who’s had FIVE straight 40-goals seasons, two of which were 52-goals seasons. The most-valuable player of the Thrashers organization by a wide wide margin. The first and only franchise player of the entire organization.
Kovalchuk is bound to become an UFA by this coming summer. This is perhaps the only reason why anyone would even think of trying to offer a trade for him. Especially when he’s having another great season, with 21G and 18A in only 30 games; with 46 more games to play, Ilya is on pace to get 54G and 45A for a 99Pt season. He’s not just scoring goals, he is making players around him great. The Russian-line, which is built in the past off-season especially for Kovie, both Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov are having a great season, scoring 32Pts and 34Pts respectively.
So yeah, I don’t think Waddell will trade him. Not a chance. Excluding the Bonus Cushion, the Thrashers have more than US$8-million space in Cap, and with Kovie already making $6.4M per season, and the maximum allowed salary per player being 20% of the teams’ cap, which is about US$10.4-million, Waddell WILL be able to sign Kovie!!!
This leaves us with the question, why are we talking about Kovalchuk??
Of course, as a Canucks fan, I’d love to see the team improve in terms of fire-power, so let’s look at some of the UFA forwards for this coming summer.
Selanne, Teemu (Ana)
Koivu, Saku (Ana)
Kovalchuk, Ilya (Atl)
Armstrong, Colby (Atl)
Jokinen, Olli (Cal)
Bourque, Rene (Cal)
Tucker, Darcy (Col)
Svatos, Marek (Col)
Bertuzzi, Todd (Det)
Comrie, Mike (Edm)
Frolov, Alexander (LA)
Sykora, Petr (Min)
Plekanec, Tomas (Mon)
Prospal, Vaclav (NYR)
Lombardi, Matthew (Pho)
Marleau, Patrick (SJ)
Kariya, Paul (Stl)
Tanguay, Alex (TB)
Morrison, Brendan (Was)
All of these players must be signed before July 1st 2010, or else they will become Unrestriced Free Agents.
With the way the Ducks are going right now, it’s likely that they will try to move Selanne or even Koivu to get some prospect in return. However, Teemu has a NTC, so he gets to choose where he wants to go, but his $2.62M cap-hit is very attractive for the Canucks, who are looking for a RW upgrade in the top-six. Koivu can also be a great fit, if we move Kesler back to the wings, with Saku playing between Kesler and Raymond. $3.25M hit is acceptable if we don’t ever re-activate Demitra and just let his contract runs-out by the end of this season.
Colby Armstrong is another interesting prospect. Ever since traded to the Thrashers in a deal that sent Hossa to the Penguins, Colby had a great season with the Thrasher last year, notching 22G and 18A. But with Afinogenov getting most of the ice-time with Kovalchuk, Armstrong may be expendable, and might choose not to sign back with Atlanta. Armstrong was a 1st-round pick in 2001, and definitely has the potential to be a great offensive RW. At US$2.4M Cap-hit, he’s a good bargin.
Mike Comrie has been missing a lot of games this season, playing only 16 games, due to flu and mono, this has hurt his production. Signing as a free agent this offseason for a year, this experiment hasn’t been successful so far. Sitting at the bottom of the league, look for Oilers to trade him for a 3rd rounder, just to shed that $1.25M Cap.
Frolov, on the other hand, is much more interesting. After a breakout season in 06-07, when he scored 35G 36A, Frolov’s production has been on a steady decline. He’s a great skater, and soft hands, but doesn’t seem to be able to pick up his game. Even during the current injury of Ryan Smyth, Frolov still wasn’t able to capitalize his chances to play with Kopitar and Williams on the top line. At his current pace, Frolov is on pace to have only a 20G season, the least in his past five seasons. At $4M/year salary, and a $2.9M cap-hit, the Kings should be more than happy to trade him to get something in return before his contract expires. In any case, I don’t think Dean Lombardi will likely offer him any attractive contract come this summer. If MG is willing to offer Hansen plus a 3rd rounder, Lombardi will bite.
Paul Kariya is another interesting player. Kariya was never the same player he used to be during his time in St. Louis. It’s a sharp decline from his production during his time in Nashville, and even more distant from his prime during his captaincy in Anaheim. He’s 35, played for four teams so far, and never won a cup. Born and raised in Vancouver, B.C., maybe it’s time for him to return home and win the cup here? At US$6-million per season, and scoring 8G 11A in 36 games, the Blues would be thrilled to rid this mistake from their books. Draft picks or farm-team prospects should be enough to land Kariya home.
Last but not least, I’m going to talk about Patrick Marleau, perhaps the most prized upcoming UFA, next to Kovalchuk. Ever since being stripped of his captaincy, trade rumors have been flying before this season began. Of course, we hear Marleau coming out and saying he stood behind the decision, but don’t believe for a second that this gesture wasn’t a blame on Marleau’s leadership and perhaps abilities.
I guess no one can really know what’s going through Patty’s mind. His sudden resurgence being a sign of cooperation to the organization’s action, or an effort to raise his market value for his upcoming free-agency, no one knows.
If it’s the latter reason, then he is doing an excellent job for himself and for the Sharks. Since the better he plays, the higher value the team can get in return for a trade. Of course, Marleau has a No-Trade Clause, so he gets to choose where he wants to go. Marleau currently leads the team in goals, with 23 and he is on pace to a 50-goals season, with 35-assists. A major reason for this is due to playing wing along the best playmaker of the league in Joe Thornton. But as we saw what happened to Devin Setoguchi last season, Marleau is not the only one who can score, if he gets to play with Jumbo Joe.
Looking back a few seasons, Marleau’s consistency is questionable. Despite having a great season last year, with 38G 33A, he completely disappeared in the 07-08 season, notching 19G 20A only. So the question for GM Doug Wilson will be, should he sell high while Marleau is at his peak, or should he keep him in the line-up as a $6M second-line player (assuming Setoguchi gets signed and returns to the 1st line).
The answer is quite obvious, at today’s salary-cap era, Wilson can probably get a player from outside or inside of the organization whom has the similar skills as Marleau at a much lower price-tag. With Heatley’s long-term contract and a drastic reduction in the skills level of the D-corp, Wilson will need that cap-space in the near future to sign better suited free agents.
This is why I believe the Canucks shouldn’t be looking at Kovalchuk, but instead Marleau. If the Canucks trade Kevin Bieska + Michael Grabner + Mason Raymond, with Demitra still out and the current 2.1M cap space, the Canucks should be able to fit Marleau in the line-up.
Kevin Bieska (3.75M)
Mason Raymond (0.88M)
Michael Grabner (0.84M)
Patrick Marleau (6.3M)
The Sharks reduces the cap by a slight 0.83M but gets an immediate uplift to D, and two cheap top-six forwards.
The Canucks shed 5.4M in salary but takes up 6.3M, eating up 0.83M into the current cap space. But then there’s no need to re-activate Demitra, so either wait it out or buy him out.
Of course, some of you might argue whether the Sharks are willing to do this, but think about today’s cap-world, not a lot of teams have the space to swallow a 6.3M contract, meanwhile offer cheap players with the skills of Raymond and Grabner.
Tell me what you think.