Kovalchuk offered more than $101M: Waddell
'We can't reasonably go any higher,' Thrashers GM says
Don Waddell set the record straight Thursday, saying he's met many demands put forth by star left-winger Ilya Kovalchuk and his agent Jay Grossman and can't increase the team's latest contract offer.
Reports out of Atlanta on Wednesday suggested Waddell has told Kovalchuk, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, to expect a trade in the coming hours or days.
"We offered Kovy more than $101 million [US] over 12 years, which would have been the highest contract signed by an impending unrestricted free agent in the history of the league," Waddell said in a statement released by the team. "If accepted, this contract would have been the second highest offer ever to any NHL player.
"We also met his desire to be the highest paid player based on average annual salary with a separate offer of seven years at $10M per year ($70M). This offer is $0.5M higher per year than any other player."
Kovalchuk acknowledged he met with Waddell this week and was told the team can't meet his demands for a maximum NHL contract in the $11-million range.
Waddell said increasing the club's latest offer would mean Atlanta couldn't retain its young players when their contracts expired and no other "top tier" free agents could be signed.
"Our goal from the start of this negotiating process was to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a long-term contract," said Waddell, adding he is exploring all options regarding the standout forward. "We've spent several months exploring scenarios with Kovy and his agent to reach a mutually beneficial agreement and offered many lucrative packages. Unfortunately, we've reached an impasse."
Kovalchuk, 26, will enter Friday's game at Washington with 31 goals and 58 points in 49 games this season.
His 328 career goals lead the NHL since the Thrashers drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001, but Atlanta has made just one playoff appearance and never won a post-season game during his time there.
The Thrashers entered play Thursday in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a 24-23-8 record for 56 points, one behind eighth-place Tampa Bay for the final playoff spot and three back of No. 6 Philadelphia.
The NHL has changed the schedule for teams to make roster moves because of the break for the Vancouver Olympics. Teams are forbidden to make any transactions from 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 12 to just before midnight on Feb. 28.