With Kovy dealt, Canes' GM takes center stage 

February, 5, 2010

What's the lesson that should be learned by fellow GMs from the Ilya Kovalchuk saga? Simple: Don't let star players run your franchise. The smart GMs, of course, have already mastered that lesson. If the Atlanta Thrashers had tendered their best offers last summer, the club would have gotten a better read on Kovalchuk's real intentions -- max contract or bust. At that point, in the early summer, when most teams have more flexibility to make such a big deal, the Thrashers could've made a much better deal.

Amazingly, after the trade, Kovalchuk continued to insist he really wanted to be a Thrasher for life. I can only wonder what planet Kovalchuk thinks he's living on. In our current economic environment, especially in our current economic environment, I don't think many Thrashers fans are going to buy into that spin. I mean, what, $10 million per season wasn't enough to stay in Atlanta?

Kovalchuk should have said, "I want to be a Thrasher for life ... if I can juice every last penny out of the organization and insure that we can never afford enough good players to help us ever win a playoff game."

Even more amazingly, Waddell was among the remaining few believing Kovalchuk's sincerity. "I think Kovy right to the last day wanted to be a Thrasher," Waddell said.

Hey Don, the guy turned down a contract in excess of $100 million dollars in an era where people are packing up and walking away from their homes. Guys who want to stay somewhere just don't turn down that kind of deal.

Let's call it as it is: The guy wanted to skate. And, if Waddell had figured that out in June, he could have made a significantly better deal. Case closed.

Now that Waddell is off the clock, we can turn our attention to some other sellers. Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford took a few minutes to answer five questions about his team and the upcoming trade deadline. Here's our Five for Friday.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.