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Kovalchuk murmur, slightly amplified

Ah, the lovely shelter offered by the passive voice.

There's the classic, "Mistakes were made." (By whom?) You can never go wrong with, "It has been determined that workforce reductions are necessary." (Who determined?) And then, in the case of sports rumors, there is always the Brooks-ian "It is believed." As in:

It is believed that while the club would quarantine NHL emerging talents John Tavares and Josh Bailey, Snow would be willing to part with this year's first-rounder in addition to presenting a "One from Column A/One from Column B menu..."

To be fair, the only bit Larry Brooks has sourced (albeit anonymously) is that Garth Snow has "checked in" with the Thrashers about Ilya Kovalchuk, "leaving the message with Atlanta GM Don Waddell that the team intends to be in the mix." Which is to say: Garth Snow is doing his job, quiet as ever. If someone is shedding a distresed asset, you're supposed to check on the market rate in case you can get a bargain.

But as I wrote earlier this week when we took Birdwatchers Anonymous' RFP and had our fun:

The Islanders will not and cannot make a trade for Ilya Kovalchuk. It's simply not happening, and it probably shouldn't under any conditions conforming to the laws of physics...

I wasn't going to touch this again, with the exception of sending The Falconer at BWA a very watered down, no-chance offer based on our discussion. But since Brooks gave it a bird leg to hobble on, we can go into the pros and cons before faxing a "Here lies David St. Hubbons ... and why-not?" proposal:

Pro: If the Islanders remained in the playoff picture, they'd be adding a scorer who instantly becomes the best forward on the team, and the best shooter in the league. Also: Immediate powerplay upgrade. Which is nice.

Con: Kovalchuk will not sign here. He won't. He won't pass up the comfort and connections built in Atlanta over so many years and enter unrestricted free agency only to "settle" for the Islanders, a franchise whose future is -- let's face it -- in many ways no more clear than the Thrashers. If he wants long-term security, he'll take it in Atlanta if they can guarantee it. If he wants long-term security and a franchise guaranteed to be as stable in 2020 as it is in 2010 ... he's not signing with the Isles.

Pro: He'd be exciting, he'd sell some jerseys, he might -- might -- even have a bigger on-ice impact than the Spring of Ryan Smyth. Like maybe playoffs and winning two playoff games instead of one.

Con: But then it would be over, he'd sign with someone else (or the KHL?), and we'd be right back where ... wait, what was it the Isles are trying to build here again?

When you look at the 29 other teams in the league, you quickly see that there aren't a lot of realistic bidders for Kovalchuk, at least not for the price a player of his caliber should fetch. Which can lead you to think that maybe Waddell will have to accept a paltry return ... which can lead you to dream maybe Snow can play ball here.

But all you need is two bidders and you've got an auction.

An auction the Isles have no business being in, one they definitely shouldn't offer enough to win -- simply because the chances of it paying off in the long run (i.e. Kovi sticking around past April) are so incredibly remote.

However, for the sake of argument, we (okay I -- no one suggested this exact offer) will offer the folks at BWA the most that it makes sense to offer for 25 games of a UFA rental superstar who will not sign here and will not be part of the rebuild. We'll call it "the Smyth/Hossa Memorial Leftovers Platter":

  • Sean Bergenheim
  • Jeff Tambellini
  • Aaron Ness
  • choice of some long-shot prospect whose inclusion makes Waddell's bosses think he got another body
  • 2011 1st-round pick (conditional upon Kovalchuk re-signing with the Islanders, which he won't).

It's unrealistic, cheap and ridiculous -- but so is the thought that Snow should pay market price to rent a UFA when this rebuild (don't say "rebuild!") has only just begun. It gives Atlanta a guy who can score some goals in the NHL now, a tenacious forechecker and penalty killer, an offensive blueline prospect, a throwaway prospect (do Waddell's bosses even pay attention?) and a pick (the only part that can be conditional, unless you're going to slap "future considerations" on the deal).

It's not what Waddell wants. But if I were boss of the Isles, I wouldn't go anywhere near what Waddell wants just to bail him out of his mess, while creating a mess of my own.