Team president said there were conversations with
Thashers before superstar was dealt to Devils
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes is finally over, and the New Jersey Devils were the winners -- for the time being -- in landing the talented Russian forward. But Blues President John Davidson acknowledged Thursday night that the Blues had "legitimate interest" in trading for Kovalchuk themselves.
Kovalchuk was dealt to the Devils in a six-player deal that also send defenseman Anssi Salmela to the Devils for rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, defenseman Johnny Oduya, Canadian prospect Pascal Cormier and a first-round pick this year.
It was reported that the Blues and Ottawa Senators were two "silent" teams that were in on the sweeps, and Davidson confirmed it from the Blues' perspective.
"We had been working at it for the better part of the week," Davidson said during the Blues' 4-2 loss to San Jose. "We had great conversations with Atlanta. We talked to them about various thoughts and ideas and put (a proposal) together. It never came to fruition."
It never came to fruition because Atlanta general manager Don Waddell publicly stated that any team interested in Kovalchuk would not be given permission to speak with him or agent Jay Grossman about a contract extension, since Kovalchuk, 26, can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Waddell said in a press release Thursday that Kovalchuk turned down the Thrashers' latest offer, a 12-year, $101 million deal. He was the No. 1 overall pick by Atlanta in 2001.
Davidson said the Thrashers' asking price was "a piece or two that we weren't winning to give up, especially knowing that Kovalchuk is, for now, a rental player."
Davidson said the Blues were more than willing partners to make a deal if they were given the chance to sign an extension immediately. When that was never an option, the risk was too high to take.
"It would have been a heck of a lot easier to give up a lot of you know he was going to stay here," Davidson said. "But you can't give up a ton and then have Ilya not be here come July 1. You're just starting from behind again as a franchise."
Davidson added, "When you make a deal like that, if it's really a magnitude coming out of your bank account, you've got to try to make sure that he signs. And that (permission to discuss a contract extension before a trade) was never given to any team that was in the battle trying to get him. So we just couldn't afford to go the extra mile."
Davidson would not admit nor deny that the latest report on what Kovalchuk turned down was something that scared the Blues away.
"I'm not going to go there because we never got into numbers," he said. "I can't go there."
There's the chance the Blues could revisit this subject this summer, should the Devils not come to terms with Kovalchuk by July 1. Davidson said he cannot comment on it since the player is property of another team.
"I can't say anything because (New Jersey) owns him now," Davidson said.