In the event that you have been trapped under some heavy machinery for the last three months, the big news swirling around the hockey world is that Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta "We're that team in your fantasy league that always sucks and other managers pick good players from us like vultures pick apart a dead water buffalo" Thrashers, is probably going to be traded very soon. This is important because no player of his caliber has ever been available in the prime of his career.
Many adjectives have been bandied about describing the 26 year old Russian left wing. Kovalchuk is a game changer, a top-five player, a shape shifter, "The Maestro", David Copperfield on ice, a magician, the "Magic Man", Mister Magalicios, Doctor Crazy Puckarino with the magic magicians magic bag of magic!
Okay, I made up the last seven descriptions. The point is that Kovalchuk is extremely good and has at least five to six more years left in his career where he will continue to be extremely good.
As it stands the Thrashers will probably miss the playoffs again, as is their want every season, and Kovalchuk is reported to be demanding in the area of ten million dollars a year in order to continue to play hockey in Georgia. Logic suggests that demanding ten million dollars a year in a salary capped league where a ten million dollar annual paycheck would constitute over one-fifth of a team's payroll would ensure that one might never be on a winning team, but that shouldn't matter. It's all about the Benjamins, right?
Currently three teams appear to be in the running for Illy: The Kings of Los Angeles, The Flames of Calgary, and The Hawks of Black from Chicago.
The three teams make sense for different reasons. The Kings want a big name to draw in their easily distracted fan base. The Flames need someone who might be able to put that black circular thing into the basket-cage. And finally, the Blackhawks want someone to put them over the top even though they already appear to be the strongest team in hockey. Or as I like to call them, "The 1990's Colorado Avalanche."
Speaking of...what about those Avalanche?
The surprise team of the 2009-10 season is currently rambling along on a six game winning streak and depending on the week, is perched however precariously, atop the Northwest Division. Night in and out one of the youngest teams in hockey has played hard and met with success. As it turns out (contrary to the esteemed analysis of many hockey know-it-alls) the Avalanche have managed to draft well over the last few years.
In fact, it appears that their only fault in the organization was that they were impatient with the talent they did have, or some of their coaches had a penchant for never allowing said talent to consistently see the ice on the top level. Joel Quenneville and Tony Granato, meet Chris Stewart.
Historically this time of year has featured other teams scrambling to acquire top-flight talent near the deadline, and the Avalanche more often than not beat them to the punch while maintaining the kind of secrecy the CIA could only dream about.
That is why when confronted with the opportunity to land a once in a generation talent like Kovalchuk I can't help but get the same feeling that I would get around this time of year, every year, for the better part of the last decade. The feeling that something is up.
Things are a bit too quiet right now, aren't they?
Maybe it is because I am on the other side of the planet and the Earth's magnetic core is screwing up my hockey intuition to the point where I have done such things as say, drafting Jason Spezza in my fantasy league. But it would take all my power not to shovel some spare parts and prospects at Don Waddell in hopes of landing Kovalchuk.
For all intents and purposes the rest of the NHL seems to believe that players like Marek Svatos and John Michael Liles have good value. Especially the valuation of Svatos, which I will never understand. Considering all of the injuries he has had in his career, the man is half robot at this point. But that shouldn't prevent the Avalanche from boxing him up complete with remote control, and shipping him off to the land of humidity.
Would trading for Kovalchuk require relinquishing some talent in the form of Ryan O'Reilly? Certainly. But the way O'Reilly has been trending in his rookie season I have reason to believe that he may end up as a skilled grinder and nothing more. Grinders can be had fairly easily. Elite wingers can't.
This is why I can't help but believe that the Avalanche at the very least, have to be up something. Perhaps they would like to keep the team intact and allow them to develop. I wouldn't blame them if they did, although it would show uncharacteristic patience on the part of Avalanche management. Hockey above all else is a team sport, and great teams tend to win over collections of stars. But at this point with Pierre Lacroix still involved in the organization one has to think that a trade is being considered.
Just call it "That Old Fashioned Feeling".