Based on articles by the likes of Craig Custance, Jeff Schultz, and famed Chronicle antagonist Rory Boylen, Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy shares some thoughts on that ever-ambiguous contract situation, all of which I agree with. Most amazing of all, he's the only journalist I've read on this subject who uses Kovalchuk's actual words as a basis for some kind of tentative conclusion.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick has only played four playoff games in his seven seasons with Atlanta. For most players, there's only so much talk of "progress" that one can take before deciding to start looking elsewhere. But even with all the lack of success to date in Atlanta, Kovalchuk is not the type of player who will force his way out, instead, he wants to help in the turnaround process. In other words, he's not going to turn into Dany Heatley over the next few months.
The Thrashers ownership situation, as Schultz pointed out, is hindering Waddell's ability to spend money to further improve the team. If Kovalchuk enters the season without a new deal, suitors will be lining up outside of Waddell's office door with packages for the 26-year old left winger. As much as Kovalchuk would like to believe that contract talks during the season wouldn't be a distraction, it'll be almost impossible to not have it affect him in some way.
The one intangible that gets lost in even a piece as clear-headed (I won't use the word "nuanced"; it is sadly overused) as this one--perhaps because there's no way it should be obvious to anyone who doesn't watch every Thrashers game--is that Kovalchuk acts and plays like he wants to be the Thrashers' equivalent to Yzerman. Okay fine, laugh all you want, but that IS, I think, what he wants. There's a reason Russia made him captain of the Olympic team; they realize he's a great and committed leader. The same is true of his Atlanta gig.
He's the anti-Heatley. Or maybe Heatley is the anti-Kovalchuk.
Also, the Thrashers got a lot better at the end of last year and stuff, also. Exhibit A.