January 22 2010 11:11AM
Interesting nugget from TSN's Bob McKenzie today as he suggests the Calgary Flames and the Chicago Blackhawks are his front-runners in the presumed Ilya Kovalchuk Sweepstakes that will develop if and when the Atlanta Thrashers decide to move the Russian winger.
McKenzie is worth paying attention to because unlike some of the less-reputable media types out there, he's careful about spouting off on any old rumour that crosses his path and, just as importantly, he makes careful note to emphasize what part of his reports comes from sources and what part consists of speculation on his part.
That said, it's a little surprising that McKenzie says so matter-of-factly that Dion Phaneuf would be merely a starting point of a larger Flames package that would be needed to land Kovalchuk. We get the fact that Phaneuf's stock has fallen a lot in the last 18 months but at the same time, Kovalchuk is playing out his contract, so his rent-a-player status will surely have an impact on the return the Thrashers will get. The reports of Kovalchuk's willingness to go to the KHL if he can't get a deal to his liking on this side of the pond only increases the risk for the acquiring team.
Phaneuf, on the other land, is locked up for four more years, although whether that's a good thing or not depends on your feelings on what direction the defenceman's career is headed. The debate about Phaneuf's value aside, the Flames' lack of a 2010 first-round pick (kiitos to Olli Jokinen) may impede any attempt to land a large fish.