A message to fans from Thrashers GM Don Waddell:
After several months of negotiations toward a long-term contract with forward Ilya Kovalchuk and his agent, we were unable to reach an agreement and elected to trade Kovalchuk and defenseman Anssi Salmela to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier and a first round draft pick in 2010.
We want you, our fans, to know that throughout the negotiation process, the Thrashers organization remained committed to offering Ilya a contract that exceeded those of the league’s best and highest paid players, and was commensurate to his skill level and performance history.
To that end, we offered Kovy several lucrative packages in an effort to meet his financial objectives. One offer that we extended to Ilya would have made him the highest paid NHL player on a per year average with $10 million per year for seven years. Another offer totaled more than $100 million over 12 years, and it, combined with the previous contractual commitments that were made to Kovy, would have earned him more money than any other NHL player in the history of the league.
If we had met Kovy’s ultimate demand, we would have jeopardized our ability to build a competitive team around him and retain our other young players as they became eligible for new contracts in the seasons ahead. At the end of the day, we couldn’t close that gap and simply reached a point at which we couldn’t reasonably go any higher.
We’re excited about the addition of all three players and feel that Johnny and Niclas will quickly complement our team of budding young stars, highly-skilled veterans and elite players. We also look forward to having Patrice join us in the near future. Our goals for this season have not changed—to make and advance as deep as possible in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs—and we move ahead with a new sense of purpose that is energized by our continued climb in the standings as we position ourselves to compete with the best in the NHL.
We will maintain the option of bringing in more players, in addition to the ones that we have acquired in the trade, to make sure that we are fully competitive for the remainder of the season and the postseason.
We thank Ilya and Anssi for all they have done for our organization and wish them well. And we thank you, for your continued support, and look forward to your enthusiastic presence in Blueland to help drive us into the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Executive Vice President and General Manager