(updated below; updated AGAIN below)
In the comments the other day, famous Chronicle operative "Jay" mentioned a Pierre LeBrun blog post over at ESPN.com about the Kovalchuk situation. Something about the possibility of the Blackhawks trading for Kovalchuk purely as a rental player, so that Chicago could make a truly hellacious push for the Stanley Cup this year. You know: Kane, Toews, Hossa, Kovalchuk, famous Olympic couple Keith and Seabrook, etc. It's not totally unthinkable, especially when you consider what LeBrun says in an interview with ESPN Chicago, today:
We know the Hawks have talked to a lot of teams about a lot of things. No surprise there. In your opinion, are they still going to try and shave salary while also trying to pick up a defenseman for the stretch? Or is the shaving to be done after the season? Or is it too fluid to predict?
PL: As I reported in my blog over the weekend, one interesting theory thrown at me by an NHL executive recently was that he believed the Hawks might be a surprise entry in the Illya Kovalchuk sweepstakes if the Thrashers do indeed decide to move him. At first blush, it doesn't make sense given Chicago's cap issues, but the executive told me that's exactly the point. Because Kovalchuk is UFA July 1, his theory is that the Hawks pick him solely as a star rental, trade to Atlanta a couple of signed players (let's say Versteeg/Barker for the heck of it). So in one fell swoop, they gear up for the Cup with Kovalchuk but also alleviate their off-season cap issues with dumping two salaries players. Again, it's just a theory from another executive, and at this point I don't think Chicago and Atlanta have talks, but it is food for thought.
Sumptuous, delicious food for thought. Food for--what? You know, I was talking to some guy the other day ("a source") and he told me that he could imagine Kovalchuk taking over Jimmy Fallon's terrible late night show. Food for thought.
Meanwhile, the Chronicle has sent its ace reporter, the Short Handed Mole, to infiltrate Don Waddell's office and get the real story.
UPDATE: I should probably make clear here that Chicago would be one of the first teams on my list if there's no way Kovy is going to re-sign. If he must go, Versteeg/Barker/someone else (Campbell?) wouldn't be a bad return for, say, Kovalchuk, Hainsey, and someone else. Gazing into the comments section, I can see Mr. Speaker thinks the same thing. This might necessitate a "who do you want for Kovalchuk?" thread...
UPDATE II: Stu Hackel at the New York Times hockey blog Slap Shot does a good job of rounding up the various "will he or won't he?" hearsay-and-conjecture articles that have been published in the last few weeks.