Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kovalchuk to Avs? Absurd.

I really enjoy watching Ilya Kovalchuk play. I'd absolutely LOVE to see him in an Avalanche uniform, but I'm aware that it would be extremely surprising if it were to happen.

Rory Boylen of The Hockey News recently posted a blog speculating about Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk being moved to Colorado this season. Boylen's column is filled with ideas that the Avs would be silly to consider. Lets pick it apart:

I never like coming up with trade possibilities because the attempts are futile and the unexpected always happens, but I can’t get this thought out of my head.
There's nothing like starting off an article with a disclaimer that while normally you wouldn't write an article with insane speculation, this is not a normal time.

It doesn’t appear to be an option and I’m not convinced they’d be prepared to make this type of move yet, but what are the chances the Colorado Avalanche get Ilya Kovalchuk at the deadline?
As he shrewdly stated, it's not an option.

Let’s start with the disclaimer that Don Waddell has to let Sherman talk with Kovalchuk about the likelihood of an extension. If there’s no indication he’d back off from his current demands, I don’t think anyone should go after him, but it’s certainly possible the superstar would sacrifice green from his wallet for green in his pastures. Great players have played in, thrived and loved Denver before him and it’s proven to be a hockey town – at least when times are good – and one to raise your young family in, like Kovalchuk’s. Would it really be out of the realm of possibility for Kovalchuk to sign there, especially given how they’re on an upswing?
In case you've been living under a rock the past few weeks, it has been reported that Kovalchuk is asking for over 10 million dollars with a contract extension. So lets assume he comes down from that number, say, to 8.5 million. And lets say he's willing to sign in Denver for, I don't know, 6 years. Kovy is 29, which means he'd be playing out his prime in Colorado. Sounds decent. Boylen mentions earlier in his article that guys like Darcy Tucker and Ruslan Salei will leave the Avs with significant slary cap space at season's end. Alright, it's doable so far.

Here's where it gets sticky:

My proposal is this: RFA-to-be Wojtek Wolski, Ryan O’Reilly, Ryan Stoa and a first round pick for Kovalchuk and 37-year-old pending UFA Slava Kozlov. Considering the return Waddell got for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis two years ago it’s a similar type of trade with better talent.
Let me first eliminate Slava Kozlov from the rest of this post. If the Avs were to acquire him, it would only be for this season. The Avs have surprised us, but they're not at the point of needing rental players, especially when David Jones could be back for the postseason.

As for Wolski, O'Reilly, Stoa, and the first round pick, Greg Sherman would be insane to make this deal.

Start with Wolski: At just 23-years-old, Wolski has stepped up in a big way this year. With 45 points in 51 games, Wolski is just five away from his career high. He already has two more goals than last season, and his +/- has gone from a minus 13 to a plus 14. Though Avalanche fans consistently get on him for what appears to be a "lack of effort," Wolski has responded well to a couple benchings this year and even had his first fight a few games ago. In six years, it's unlikely he'll be an Ilya Kovalchuk, but he has all the tools to dominate as an NHL left winger.

Next comes O'Reilly. On October 1st, most fans were suprised this guy was in the lineup. Ten games later, those same fans were stoked he was still on the roster. O'Reilly appears to be that 3rd line center the Avs have been missing since Stephane Yelle left. "Radar" (what the cool kids call him) kills penalties, takes key faceoffs, and is one of the best defensive forwards on the team. Did I mention he's only 18? Though his play has slipped a little bit from his fast start, he continues to play over 17 minutes every night. Paired with Galiardi on the penalty kill, O'Reilly takes the pressure off Stastny when the Avs need a key defensive play from one of its centers.

As for Stoa, it was certainly a disappointment when he didn't make the team out of camp. Still, he went back down to Lake Erie, played well, and now finds himself in the lineup due to the Matt Hendricks, Milan Hejduk, and Marek Svatos injuries. Hockey's Future says this:
At 6'3 and a bit over 200 pounds, Stoa has the potential to develop into an effective power forward in the future.
Imagine a line of Stoa-Stastny-Stewart in five years, with Wolski-Duchene-Jones backing them up. It could be scary.

The Avs have done the whole "trading for star players" thing. Boylen mentions the trades made to get Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, and Patrick Roy. It was fun, but we've seen what happens after the fun ends. The mission going into this year was to build a team that would last for at least a decade. It appears thus far that Colorado is well on its way to doing that.

Boylen has the counterargument to my reasoning:

Colorado would pick up a franchise player in his prime and an experienced Cup-winning veteran for one playoff push. They’d be up near the cap for this season, but would drop a few overpriced UFA veterans in the off-season and have Brett Clark as their biggest UFA to re-sign. Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene are signed for a couple more years and the youth still coming through includes Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Hensick among others, not to mention the plethora of 25-and-under talent currently on the roster (Brandon Yip, Stewart, T.J. Galiardi, Kyle Quincey, Kyle Cumiskey, etc.).
Not sure what Shattenkirk, Quincey, or Cumiskey have to do with anything, but T.J. Hensick? He should not be relied on at this point to be an NHL player. This excerpt also mentions the playoff push thing.

The NHL playoffs are a funny animal. Superstars who dominate the regular season sometimes fall on their butts when it comes time for the postseason:
Kovalchuk has only appeared in four postseason games. He had one goal and one assist with 19 penalty minutes. Not too much evidence to say whether or not Kovalchuk is a Joe Thornton or a Claude Lemieux.

Boylen makes a good point here:

Kovy and Kozlov would both be upgrades for Colorado as the chases tighten and the playoff season rings in, not to mention how keeping Kovalchuk for the long-term would really be a nice add for a once-great franchise emerging, but lacking in ticket sales.
Solid point.

But he throws me through a loop here:

I’m not suggesting it’s being discussed, nor am I saying it’s a deal the Avs have to make. Colorado has been in a cost-cutting mode this year, though a home-ice seed in the West could inspire a new horizon; we’ve seen that mentality before. If another contender bids over the top and changes the marketplace all bets are off. I certainly don’t think any players going to Atlanta are deal-breakers and I don’t agree the Avs are sacrificing depth now or later in this move.
You know what inspires a new horizon? The youngest team in the league making the playoffs without sacrificing its future. He may not agree the Avs are sacrificing depth now or later if this deal were to happen, but the net of this trade in three years would look like:

To Atl: Wojtek Wolski (Top 6 forward), Ryan Stoa (Top 9 forward), Ryan O'Reilly (Top 9 Forward), First Round Pick (?)

To Col: Ilya Kovalchuk (Top 3 Forward)

That's the definition of sacrificing depth.

Kovalchuk is a great player, but he isn't a champion. He's not Wayne Gretzky. He isn't worth risking the future core of the Avalanche.

Absurd.

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