Thrashers, Kovalchuk close to contract agreement

Updated: October 7, 2005, 9:21 PM ET
By E.J. Hradek | ESPN The Magazine

Despite a report in Friday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution to the contrary, Ilya Kovalchuk could be on the way to signing a new deal with the Thrashers.

Late Thursday, an industry source told me that the two sides were getting closer to making a deal. On Friday afternoon, Thashers GM Don Waddell confirmed that he'd enjoyed some "good discussions" with Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, over the past 24 hours. Waddell said he was "much more optimistic" than he'd been in previous weeks.

Grossman, who responded by e-mail, said, "we are making some progress."

Kovalchuk told the paper he planned to return to Russia on Sunday. And, he said he was planning on playing the full season in Russia.

"It's my intention to go back to Russia on Sunday," he told the AJC via phone from New York. "I haven't heard from [Thrashers'] management. I don't know [what is going to happen]. If they call right now and offer something then maybe [a contract can be completed]. But otherwise I'm going back to Russia."

If Kovalchuk returns to Russia and plays in a superleague game, we won't see him in the NHL this season. If he does that, he'd have to clear waivers to gain re-admittance. Quite simply, a player of his stature would never clear waivers.

EJ Hradek covers hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at Also, click here to send EJ a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.