So with the potential threat of all-star Ilya Kovalchuk heading back to Russia after this season, word from the RDS comes that Atlanta Thrashers have offered him a monster contract. They are saying the sides are close to agreeing to a 9 year deal averaging $11.3 million per season deal. That would be $101.7 total, the 2nd $100 million NHL contract, Alex Ovechkin the other. Elliotte Friedman stats the maximum contract that can be offered this year under the CBA is $11.36 million.
We all knew Kovalchuk would be getting a big offer from the Thrashers as they can not afford to lose him, especially to the KHL where they would lose him for nothing. But potentially at a $11.3 cap hit? Crazy. Now I agree with what Friedman says, in that other GM’s would do the same thing if they were in Don Waddell shoes, as they can’t lose him. He is the face of franchise, and fans would probably stay away (most are staying away as it is), but a cap number that big can handcuff a franchise (see Tampa Bay and Vinny’s $10+ million).
Basically 20% of your payroll on one player, that’s $11.3 of over $56 million. What if the cap drops to $54 million or down $50 million (then again, maybe that doesn’t matter as they may never be near the high end of the salary cap scale). With finishing near the bottom of the league for several seasons, and with having some players with talent, they are going to require larger salaries as well in the future. Will they be able to be re-signed because Kovalchuk is making so much money?
I was thinking that the Thrashers would be offering a long term contract in the $9-9.5 million range, which is still a ton a money, but would give the team a bit more flexibility to bring in some free agents. He wants to win, but the team needs the flexibility to bring more pieces, as they aren’t close to competing for a cup. I don’t see how the Thrashers can build a winner with Kovalchuk taking up 20-25% of the salary cap.
So what are the Thrashers suppose to do? I would try to convince Kovalchuk to sign at a lesser cap number ($8.5-9.5 million), extend the deal to 12 years with lesser salary in the last couple years. Maybe float out the rumor that you might be looking to deal him, the return could be huge, which the team would have to deny that they are until a trade could be close. They would be able to get several young, high end players, along with high picks. Trading him could cripple the organization, though some think the organization is already crippled. Either way, it’s going to be a challenge for the Thrashers.