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Thrashers GM optimistic Kovalchuk deal will be completed // The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Chris Vivlamore
Thrashers general manager Don Waddell described the ongoing contract negotiations with star Ilya Kovalchuk as “constructive” and said Monday that he is optimistic that a new deal would be completed. Waddell said the two sides have exchanged contract proposals.
“We’ve had several face-to-face meetings,” Waddell said. “We’ve had some very, very long discussions.”
Kovalchuk, the franchise’s all-time leader in goals, points and games played, is entering the final year of his contract. The earliest the team could begin negotiating a new contract in the offseason was July 1. Waddell has said previously he wanted to get a deal done before the start of the season. The Thrashers report to training camp on Sept. 12 and the regular season opens Oct. 3.
“I feel very confident that at some point — I don’t know when that point will be — but at some point, we will get a contract done,” Waddell said. “I’m OK at this point because of the conversations we are having. If the conversations were broken off or argumentative, I would have a lot more concern.”
Kovalchuk told the Thrashers that he wanted to see the team headed in the right direction before committing to a new contract. The team has made several offseason moves, including trading for defenseman Pavel Kubina and signing free-agent forward Nik Antropov.
“I was with Kovy at a [Hawks] game,” co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. said. “I was asking him, ‘What to you think about our team and what do you think we need?’ I’ve never seen him be so optimistic. I think he felt like we made some moves around the trade deadline and the players just clicked.
“He said to me, ‘Look, we’d like to get a big guy that could help us on power play, like an [Nik] Antropov.’ Well, ironically, we got him.”
Antropov played with Kovalchuk in Russia during the NHL lockout in 2004-05.
“It’s nice that he talked about me like that,” Antropov said.
Waddell said his preference would be to work out a long-term deal with Kovalchuk, but did not offer details of the contract proposals.
According to the NHL collective bargaining agreement, Kovalchuk’s maximum yearly salary can be 20 percent of the NHL salary cap. The cap for next season is $56.8 million, making the ceiling on Kovalchuk’s yearly salary $11.36 million.
“He is eager for the season to commence,” said Jay Grossman, Kovalachuk’s agent. “He said he has had the best offseason workout program that he’s ever had. He’s the captain and he wants to lead.”