Thrashers GM Talks Kovalchuk Negotiations

BY foxsports • December 23, 2009

Courtesy of the
December 23, 2009

Prior to Monday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens at Philips Arena Thrashers Executive Vice President and General Manager Don Waddell spoke to the local and international media about the ongoing contract negotiations between the team and Ilya Kovalchuk whose contract expires on July 1, 2010, making him eligible for unrestricted free agency. This is what Don Waddell had to say. You may opt to read the transcript below or listen to the complete interview:

Waddell on Kovalchuk Negotiations
"Jay Grossman (Kovalchuk's agent) was in town this weekend and we met on Saturday and Sunday. Again, I continue to say that we have made some progress. We still have a long ways to go. It's been an interesting negotiations because there's been so many other factors that have entered into the contract as far as where our team is and where we're heading. I still remain optimistic that we will get something done. I don't have any kind of timeframe. We seem to have hit a little snag right now and we're going to take a little time to re-think our positions and we'll get back after the holidays.

On what the factors impeding a contract signing are:
"The one thing we continue to keep telling people is this franchise is not going any place. Every time there's ever talk about a franchise moving we always get lumped in there- that we're going some place to another city. As we know, and our ownership has stated, we own the NBA team here along with the NHL team along with the arena. This franchise is not going any place, but we do get lumped in and it's a concern of a player that's going to sign a long term contract to remain with this franchise. He'd be signing that contract to stay here in Atlanta and not think we'd be going someplace else. There are of those kinds of factors you have to deal with."

On if the Thrashers can afford to pay Kovalchuk and if it can afford to lose him:

"Can we afford him? The franchise can afford to pay him. The question
always comes, depending on what the number is, is how much of the pie
is left for the rest of the team. That's the biggest question. We've
got some very good young players and we want to make sure we're
positioned- when you're talking about a 10-12 year contract, you're not
talking about next year and the year after. You've got to look at the
next four, five and six years and make sure that with the young players
that we have up and coming we're able to keep our team together. On the
other side of it you don't replace these kinds of players. They don't
come along too often. To say that you can replace him would be a
stretch. I don't think I could sit here today and say that we could
find any way to replace him, but we're not at that point and we're
going to continue to try to move forward and do everything we can to
get him signed."

On the impact of losing Kovalchuk if it comes to that:

"It's an interesting question. I think the only ting that's going to
bring our fans back is if we're a winning team. We went through it a
couple years ago the year we won our division and the second half of
the year I think we had 11 sellouts and we sold out the two playoff
games we played, and we were winning. I think this city has proved that
stars themselves aren't going to sell tickets. It's going to be what
the team does on the ice. I think the bigger question is that we have
to make sure that we're in a position to keep moving forward and
winning hockey games."