Well, it looks like Stan Bowman cleared enough room so the Blackhawks could make it official: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith have signed their extensions. We’ll hear more about what we knew today at 2 p.m.
Numerous reports have Toews and Kane signing identical 5-year, $31.5 million deals and Keith netting a franchise-record 13-year, $71.5 million contract. This translates to $6.3 million cap hits for Toews and Kaner and $5.5 million for Keith.
Since we’ve known about this for quite some time, I guess my excitement has dwindled. My thinking has become more logical about who needs to be moved and at what cost. So, let’s go off the handle a bit toward something that isn’t completely out of the question — though many things would have to align perfectly.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun wrote today Ilya Kovalchuk continues to talk extension with the Atlanta Thrashers, with the rumor being he’s looking for 10 years at around $90 million. Is Atlanta willing to pay this, adding more money to Kovalchuk’s cap hit? Even more so, Kovalchuk make it clear during the off-season he wants to win and wants Atlanta to build a contender. While 24 points is good enough in the Eastern Conference for the sixth spot, is Kovalchuk happy with a PLAYOFF contender? Because there’s no logical reason to think Atlanta is anywhere close to competing for a Stanley Cup. Someone is doing a hell of a sales job if Kovalchuk is convinced Atlanta will ever win anything.
Assuming talks drop off as the deadline nears, the Thrashers will be talking trade even more seriously than they have been during the last year. They’re not going to want to lose him and get nothing in return. That’s where the Blackhawks could slide into the picture. With the ‘Hawks needing to clear cap space for next season yet still maintaining enough of a supporting cast to contend for the Stanley Cup this season, Kovalchuk is a logical option because he comes off the books after this season.
My offer? Patrick Sharp, Brent Sopel and a second-round pick for Kovalchuk. This is the only circumstance where I will gladly accept dealing Sharp. The ‘Hawks would rid themselves of $3.9 million and $2.3 million cap hits for next season. And since we obviously won’t have the cap space to re-sign Kovalchuk to his market value, that money comes off the books for Niklas Hjalmarsson, Andrew Ladd and maybe even John Madden.
Why would Atlanta accept this deal? Beyond the obvious of losing him for nothing in return, the Thrashers would get a potential 40-goal score (yes, I believe Sharp has the talent to do that) and a solid defenseman in Sopel locked up for next season. Atlanta defenseman Pavel Kubina is a pending UFA, and they could afford to lose him or trade him for a pick at the deadline with Sopel on board. Not to mention, a cash-strapped team would get another high-round pick.
The benefits for Kovalchuk to push for this deal? He gets a chance to win NOW, something he made clear he wants. Knowing he won’t be back with the Blackhawks, he’ll make the most of the rest of the season to fight for that Stanley Cup. Not to mention, he gets a chance to play with some unbelievable offensive talent. Then, following the Cup run, he could go out and get his huge deal on the open market.
However, Garrioch also included this in his story:
The belief is Kovalchuk doesn’t want the pressure of playing in the scrutiny of a market where he’s going to face questions.
I’m not convinced Kovalchuk is that big of a wuss. He publicly stated he wants to win, and there’s a reason he hasn’t signed an extension yet. Even if this is true, there are plenty of markets he can sign that aren’t Atlanta and not get asked questions.
Again, I’m dreaming away here. However, this isn’t completely impossible. Will the ‘Hawks even explore it? Who knows. Should they? Of course. What does it hurt? All they can do is say no, then you move on. Either way, it’s a fun topic to discuss.
Can you imagine the possibilities with Kovalchuk in the mix? Hopefully the ‘Hawks will entertain the idea.