The Lightning have no room for Ilya Kovalchuk

SB Nation's Atlanta Thrashers blog, our friends at Bird Watchers Anonymous, is putting together a post about the future of Ilya Kovalchuk in Atlanta... And what other teams might offer for the services of Kovy and first-signing-chance rights to him before July 1st.  

There were some ground rules on trade proposals in order to quell those who want to make massive 15-player deals with multiple players from each team changing hands.  Matthew Gunning, head writer at Bird Watchers Anonymous, lays it out exactly what you'd be trading for:

I'm offering 1) only Kovalchuk, 2) for extend of current contract and 3) first right to extend him before July 1st UFA kicks in. That's it, no "sign and trade" offers please!

OK, that's a good starting point...  And the Thrashers needs?

  • GM will want a roster player and a quality prospect(s)
  • Conditional 1st rounder(s) if Kovalchuk re-signs with your club.
  • No goalies needed (team has three already)
  • Not looking for over 33 guys or bloated contracts (sorry no Campbell or Huet)

You have a pretty sound idea of the parameters.  This is not some official memo that's gone out from Don Waddell or something.  This is just fun -- fantasy but with ground rules, if you will. 

The problem is, that even when contemplating Lightning offers for Ilya Kovalchuk - as a rent-a-player or in the scenario the Lightning actually acquired him and inked him to a deal - he just does not fit in the current state of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise.

What many of us - in comments on Raw Charge, in private discussions, and in fan conversations elsewhere on the web - have already concluded with regards to the Lightning is thus :  under the current style of coaching being employed by the team, scoring is not as important as grinding.  Shots and deftness take a back seat for grit and dog-the-puck mentality.  While defensive forwards and agitators contribute strongly under this system, finesse players suffer by being asked to be more like the grinders, more like the gritty guys who are camped out in the crease.

That is not a system that embraces the likes of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier or Alex Tanguay.  We've seen that in their goal production being obliterated. 

And just what happens if Rick Tocchet has Ilya Kovalchuk under this system?  While the idea was that Tanguay paired with Lecavalier would boost both players numbers, it's been the opposite...  And that's exactly what we'd expect with Kovalchuk brought in to Tampa Bay.

He doesn't fit. 

It's not a case of not admiring the player, or wanting that type of skill playing on the team.  It's a case of seeing how the team is being coached and what's being requested of everyone involved.  It'd be a waste of money and assets (and a setback to the franchise) to try to bring in someone of Kovalchuk's caliber and then ask him to be a slot-and-crease grit player and not a dynamic scoring wing.

Still, just what would you offer for Kovalchuk?  You're Lightning GM and you've got the parameters that the opposing GM have laid out.  Of course, you can negotiate on this and there is bound to be some give and take...  But think of this in plausibility as well as fantasy.  Other teams are in on this (check out Blueshirt Banter and Litter Box Cats for just two of the other hockey blogs asking their communities what they'd do) so you gotta lay out your best cards in a deal for Kovy.

Would you do it?  Would you make a push to acquire Kovalchuk or would you come to the same conclusion, that he doesn't work in Tampa?  And just what do you offer?  The Lightning's young offensive prospects still in juniors and abroad?  A hefty helping of the Bolts defense, which is loaded with the big club and in the minors as well? 

What do you do?  Let us know in the comments.  I'd personally say it doesn't work and would not even get into trade discussions, but there's an argument to be made for it.  Let us all know just what that argument is.

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