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Daily Rumour Analysis

Daily Rumour Analysis: More on Halak; Blues Looking to Deal; Several Teams Want to Upgrade

A look at the St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers

Despite the Christmas trade freeze being in effect, the rumour mill has not stopped churning. Here are several items that we are tracking:

First, the Blues are not believed to be in the bidding for Ilya Kovalchuk (still think he stays), but could consider Eric Staal (Also think he stays) and perhaps Ray Whitney (Is there a point?). The article suggests to get any big name, they would have to part with one of their talented youngsters, like a TJ Oshie or David Perron.

This seems like a bad move for the Blues at this point in the season. I realize that the team is underperforming, but dealing young talent for someone like Ray Whitney is foolish. Eric Staal would certainly help, but the price-tag is likely so high that it would end up being a sideways move. The best bet is for the Blues to consider moving the veterans, like the article says, and accumulate draft picks or young talent. The Blues are a team on the rise, no need to interrupt the climb.

This same article also suggested that the Flyers, Rangers, Thrashers, Kings and Hurricanes all want to make moves to improve their clubs. We have been over the Flyers and Rangers quite a bit, and have had discussions about the Kings and ‘ Canes too. The Thrashers are a new entry here (other than Kovalchuk talk), so lets look at what they might do.

The Thrashers have a decent core in place but do need to do some contract work to keep everyone around. Kovalchuk is the biggest piece, obviously. Said to have asked for as much as $11.5 million per, Kovalchuk would certainly be a wealthy guy, but would effectively kill his chances at winning a Stanley Cup.

His supporting cast in Atlanta conists of Evander Kane (signed), Slava Kozlov (un-signed), Nik Antropov (signed), Colby Armstrong (un-signed), Rich Peverley (signed) and the re-born Maxim Afinogenov (un-signed). Pavel Kubina (un-signed), Ron Hainsey and Tobias Enstrom (signed) anchor the defence.

The Thrashers have nearly $9 million in available cap space and will have several big tickets come off the books this summer, including Kubina’s $5 million hit. I have been saying that they will likley do what they can to keep Kovalchuk, as he is a fan favourite and reason enough for people to come to the rink. I don’t, however, see him getting a huge raise over his current deal. Other big names have taken lower salaries to help build a winner, and Kovalchuk will have to decide what to do.

Looking at the other guys, the team has to make decisions on 6 UFA’s and one RFA (Bryan Little). This will be a tough summer for Waddell and Co., as they have yet to deliver a winner in Atlanta and are likely constrained by an internal cap. Assuming they get Kovalchuk signed, they should likely focus next on Max Afinogenov. Reborn in Atlanta, the speedy winger is toiling for $800 k and will expect a raise. Hopefully he realizes that Atlanta has helped to save his career, and will sign for a reasonable amount in the $2 to $3 million range.

Slava Kozlov is 37 but still producing, so he is likely available at a slight discount from his current cap hit of $3.667 million. If he shows signs of wanting to play for a winner, he could be a prime target to be moved. He provides consistent offense and is good on the power play.

Colby Armstrong is another UFA who could attract attention if Atlanta wants to move him. A gritty two-way player who still has upside at 26, Armstrong makes $2.4 million and could be looking at a small raise. He is widely coveted throughout the league (Edmonton and Pittsburgh are often thought to have interest) and could fetch a good return. If Atlanta is worried about money going forward, he could be sent out for a package of younger and cheaper players.

Jim Slater, an important cog on the team, also need a contract. His current deal is for just over $800k and I would assume he stays in Atlanta, but he could also fetch a price as he is a very reliable forward.

The biggest RFA is Bryan Little. At 21 years of age, he is guy that is able to contribute offensively and should be seen as part of the future in Georgia. I would expect that he gets a deal that banks on his potential, so Atlanta will have to shell out to keep him.

On the blueline, Pavel Kubina is the big ticket UFA. He may be slightly overpaid on his current deal, but offensive defenders come with a price tag, so I don’t think he will take a lot less to stay. That’s why I envision him being the prime candidate to get moved. Atlanta has some good defenders to fill out the ranks, and could pick up a veteran this summer at a more reasonable price. That would free up some cash for Kovalchuk while keeping internal costs in check.