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Last month, I told you puckheads the new year would mark a critical juncture in the Ilya Kovalchuk situation.
That's indeed the case.
Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell was slated to meet with Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, this weekend at the World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in what could be a defining moment in this long saga.
If the Kovalchuk camp doesn't sign the multiyear deal (10 to 12 years) that's on the table, hold on to your hats. Then, the fun begins as the Thrashers will finally pick up the phone and open up the bidding for Kovalchuk on the trade market.
My guess is you'll see the usual suspects inquire about Kovalchuk, teams such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and several others, but an NHL executive from a Western Conference team told me recently he wouldn't be surprised if the Chicago Blackhawks got involved.
If you're like me, you're probably surprised to hear that given the Blackhawks' cap issues; but that's exactly the point, the executive said. The Hawks could bolster their Stanley Cup chances by adding a superstar rental like Kovalchuk (who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1), but at the same time, alleviate their pending offseason cap headaches by sending a pair of salaried players to Atlanta (let's say, for example, Cam Barker and Kris Versteeg).
Now, I want to stress, this is a theory. There haven't been any talks between the Thrashers and Hawks because Atlanta has been focused on re-signing Kovalchuk. But it's an interesting theory, no?
One thing worth repeating: If Kovalchuk is put on the trade market, I believe the Thrashers will not allow other teams to talk contract with him. He will be dealt as a rental only.
Changes in St. Louis
New Blues coach Davis Payne has the interim tag on him because, for now, he's only been assured the job for the rest of the season. After that, it's up to Doug Armstrong, who on July 1 takes over GM duties from Larry Pleau, who will become a Blues senior adviser. The hope is that Payne becomes the next Dan Bylsma, a young AHL coach who does well in the bigs.
Why was Andy Murray fired? A Blues team source said the players simply tuned him out. He's a solid coach; but like so often is the case in this league, after a while, a new voice is needed. He has one and a half years left on his deal.
Owner Dave Checketts is unhappy about the Blues' home record (6-13-3), but this was the hockey department's decision, led by president John Davidson, not the owner's.
Future of the Winter Classic
My colleague Scott Burnside and I have talked about this a few times this week, but it's worth mentioning again. On Saturday, another industry source suggested Washington-Pittsburgh at Heinz Field as a juicy matchup possibility for next year's Winter Classic.
Thing is, I'm guessing some other NHL teams will be upset if Pittsburgh gets in again this quickly, and I wouldn't blame them. But let's face it, it's Ovechkin versus Crosby. You can't blame some people for getting excited over that.
Another interesting scenario that came my way Saturday courtesy of my buddy Elliotte Friedman of "Hockey Night in Canada" is talk that the Dallas Stars might want to host a game at the Cowboys' new state-of-the-art stadium. As a die-hard Cowboys fan, let's just say I'm cheering for this one to come to fruition!
The Bruins and Satan
Veteran winger Miroslav Satan (remember him?) signed a one-year deal for around $700,000 with the Boston Bruins on Saturday. He has not played this season, even though he was named to the Slovak Olympic team. He was working out on Long Island with Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro while waiting for his agent, Allan Walsh, to find him a new home.
Some people will mock this move, but given the Bruins' 27th-ranked offense and the small financial investment, it's easily worth the try.