Trading Kovalchuk not the answer for NHL Thrashers

December 15, 2008 by Tom Ferda 

Published in The Examiner  and Inside Hockey Magazine – Dec. 15, 2008

Originally from Detroit, Tom is a Los Angeles based writer covering the NHL. His NHL material has been published in several national magazines including The Hockey News (Canada) and USA Hockey Magazine as well as the New York Daily News, Washington Times, Men’s Book and 360 Thrashers Magazine. Contact Tom at

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ATLANTA – There has been a buzz around the NHL about the possibility of the Atlanta Thrashers trading their Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk before this year’s trade deadline.

Kovalchuk who scored 52 goals last season is one of a few gifted players in the NHL who has the ability to control the flow of a shift and demands attention every time he steps on the ice. Trading him away would create a huge void, near impossible to fill.

The talented winger currently leads his team in total points (11G-19A-30Pts) and is 19th in the NHL in that category. His closest teammates, Slava Kozlov and Todd White trail far behind, tied at the 50th spot.

One of the Thrashers’ main inconsistencies this season has been their power play where they have tallied a total of 22 goals. Kovalchuk has been involved in 13 of those (2G-11A-13Pts) so imagine how the numbers for the PP would drop without him in the line-up.

There is an obvious need to shake things up on the roster but trading Kovelchuk is not the answer for this roster that is short on talent and experience. A move like that could set back the team’s rebuilding process for years to come.

During last season’s UFA bidding wars, GM Don Waddell’s strong effort to sign some of the top available players came up short when his huge offers to defenseman Brian Campbell and Brian Rolston were turned down and the players opted to play in markets other than Atlanta.

During that same period, Tampa Bay defenseman, Dan Boyle refused to wave his no-trade clause in his contract until he was threatened with being put on waivers and ending up in Atlanta.

The challenge of getting high-caliber players to commit to Blueland has been a difficult chore for Waddell even with Kovalchuk on the roster. Imagine the uphill climb trying to sway players here without the Russian star on the team.

Rebuilding a roster isn’t as easy as placing the highest bid for UFAs each year; it’s not a simple auction. Many of these high profile UFA’s have been joining rosters with a strong nucleus to build around. Brian Campbell and Rolston are perfect examples of that.

Kovalchuk who has spent his entire career at Blueland is clearly the nucleus of this team. Trading away their hugest asset may is not fix this club’s problem, it may add to it.

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