I'm hearing reports from Atlanta that a five-year deal for Ilya Kovalchuk to return to the Atlanta Thrashers will be signed shortly. All of the major players — including GM Don Waddell, Thrashers ownership representatives and Kovalchuk's agent Jay Grossman — are meeting at the moment in Washington and are working on negotiationing the contract.
Kovalchuk himself will arrive in New York next week
, perhaps even in time for Atlanta's first regular season game on the road against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this whole "I'm staying in Russia" charade was a bargaining ploy — and Kovalchuk's not the first to have employed it
this offseason. The unfortunate thing is that the ploy has worked, as Kovalchuk's side has received an offer in excess of $28-million, making it the largest ever deal for a player coming off of his entry-level contract. Expect to see more of these pseudo-holdouts next season.
In any event, the landmark contract will surely buy a lot of diapers for the 22-year-old phenom, who will become a first-time father later this year.