The Montreal Canadiens do not have permission to talk to the agent of Atlanta winger Marian Hossa about a new long-term contract. So says Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell, amid reports yesterday that Habs' GM Bob Gainey had been given permission to explore options with Hossa, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, in advance of a possible trade with the Thrashers. "There's no truth to it," Waddell told TSN. "None at all."
In fact, Waddell is still trying to sign Hossa to a long-term contract to stay in Atlanta. Waddell has been negotiating this week with Hossa's Edmonton-based agent Ritch Winter. The Thrashers expect to know by the beginning of next week whether a deal can be reached. If a deal isn't in place by the beginning of next week, sources say Waddell will shop Hossa to see what he will fetch, but that should not be confused with an absolute commitment to trade him. That decision will be dictated by the Thrashers' play between now and the Feb. 26th trade deadline.
If the Thrashers are competing for a Southeast Division title and/or a playoff spot, Waddell will have to weigh his options – keep Hossa for the stretch drive and playoffs and risk losing him for nothing on July 1 or weaken his team in the short term and perhaps derail the playoff run to acquire long-term assets by trading Hossa before the deadline.