Kovy's other option, Hawks talks, latest with union

October, 17, 2009

An update on the Ilya Kovalchuk front, aside from the fact he's been dynamite on the ice so far this season.

The Atlanta Thrashers' superstar captain, slated for unrestricted free agency after the season, met with his agent, Jay Grossman, on Friday. Grossman, I'm told, also met with Thrashers GM Don Waddell. There should be another round of talks within the next two weeks, and it could be make or break time.

The Thrashers are cautiously optimistic they can get it done. They won't let this drag on all year, I can promise you that.

As a side note to all this, I keep hearings rumblings out of Russia that SKA St. Petersburg president Alexei Medvedev (who also doubles as KHL president) will make a serious run at Kovalchuk if he becomes a free agent. Word is SKA St. Petersburg would offer the kind of money no NHL team could match. So the real decision for Kovalchuk, perhaps, is NHL or KHL?

Hawks talks
Pat Brisson, the agent for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, is slated to talk contract with Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman this week. Both stars could become restricted free agents at the end of the season.

Laraque and the NHL
It wasn't a good week for Georges Laraque. He got his wrist slapped by some Montreal media members for appearing in an Internet ad with scantily clad women. Sources told ESPN.com the NHL worked with the NHL Players' Association this week to pull down the Laraque Octane 7.0 ad off of all Web sites and Laraque discontinued his relationship with the company.

His relationship with Octane 7.0 (an energy drink with alcohol in it) violated Section 25.1 of the CBA: "No player shall be involved in any endorsement or sponsorship of alcoholic beverages [excluding malt-based beverages, such as beer] and/or tobacco products."

NHLPA update
The boys are at it again Sunday evening. The NHLPA's executive board (30 player reps) will convene for a 5 p.m. ET conference call as the drama continues within the union walls.

What's interesting is that it will be a mix of old and new player reps, as teams are in the process this month of electing new reps. So, for example, Mark Stuart will be on the call for Boston instead of Andrew Ference, and Laraque will be representing Montreal instead of Mike Komisarek, etc. Teams have until Oct. 31 to elect their new reps.

Still representing Detroit on Sunday's call will be Chris Chelios, and you can expect he'll once again be railing against interim executive director Ian Penny. We'll see what happens. Frankly, I think most of you puckheads are tired of this story.

Red Wings
I've had a lot of Red Wings fans ask me what I think the team will do trade-wise in the aftermath of the injury to star winger Johan Franzen. Most likely? Not much.

The philosophy in the Wings' front office is they are rebuilding on the fly. They have both the short term and long term in mind; but while they still want to win this season, they don't want to do anything stupid to jeopardize their future. The Wings don't want to trade top prospects or a first-round pick just to replace Franzen for four months.

The Wings have $16 million coming off their payroll next season -- they're in great shape to make some moves next summer if need be. In the meantime, they hope Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson and Jimmy Howard get valuable experience this season, win or lose.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Alexei Kovalev's blog on the Web site for RDS, a Montreal-based French sports network. I thought the blog was tremendous and somewhat revealing. But it appears his career as an RDS writer is over. He apparently didn't realize it would be presented in a first-person, blog-style format and was uncomfortable with that. So, he pulled the plug on it. Too bad; he's an interesting guy with a lot to say (not to mention it was bringing attention to his charitable foundation).

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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