At least for a little while. Thrashers GM, Don Waddell, has said that the Thrashers would definitely be buyers when the deadline came around. So maybe Kovy will be coming back! But, at the moment, Kovy is a New Jersey Devil!
Kovalchuk's impending contract re-signing/trade has been the buzz in Atlanta for weeks. At first, we were reasonably certain that Ilya would re-sign. This has been his home for 8 years. He and his wife recently built a large beautiful house. Both of his children were born here and his wife is very pregnant with their third child. Plus, Ilya said he wanted to stay. He said Atlanta was his home. Okay Ilya, we believe you.
Time went on and no contract. Don Waddell said he hoped to have something done by Christmas. The fans were excited.
Christmas as well as the new year came and went. We started thinking that it must be the damned owners, the much criticized, and rightly so, Atlanta Spirit. They own the Atlanta Thrashers as well as the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. They also own our venue, Phillips Arena. They are notoriously cheap and have been lamented as being horrible owners. That must be it. Kovy wants to stay, but the cheap bastards aren't willing to pay him.
More time passed and eventually Don stopped talking about it. Trade Rumors were running wild. One rumor was that Ilya wanted an obscene amount of money, like cap max money. This divided Blueland (Thrashers fans) into 3 categories:
1. Pay the man, he's Ilya-freaking-Kovalchuk.
2. Cap Max for Kovy?? Yeah, he's a scoring leader, but he can't back check for shit, he's defensibly irresponsible and he's not been that great lately. He's the face of our franchise, but we've been losing just fine with him for years. How are we supposed to pay other players to play with him if all our money is tied up with Ilya?
3. The typical douche bags that are just at the game to be seen or because they got some free tickets at work.
In the last few days we have found out that Ilya was indeed offered 2 very lucrative contracts, including one that was $101 million for 12 years, one of the highest in the league. He turned it down. Apparently all of that " I want to stay in Atlanta" stuff was an act. I think maybe he didn't want to look like an ass by wanting to leave, so he asked for ridiculous money thinking the Spirit would say no. Then they called his bluff and he had to answer.
So Ilya is now a Devil, I'm fine with that. The Devils are actually my 2nd favorite team. In return for Ilya and defenseman Anssi Salmela, we got Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfros, prospect Patrice Cormier (made famous by his seizure inducing hit in the QMJHL) and a first round draft pick. I'm a huge Oduya fan, so I'm excited. Even if Ilya does not come back to the Thrashers and his career takes him else where, I'll be a fan ( as long as he doesn't sand bag Atlanta fans or something). Good luck Ilya!