For those who are still interested, I’ve been able to piece together most of what went on from the Kings’ side of the Kovalchuk situation.
The essential reason that a trade didn’t get done, and never really got close — and basically why I found information so hard to come by in recent days — is that the Kings and Thrashers never really moved beyond the initial sticking point. When I first addressed about the subject, around 10 days ago, I wrote the following: “The issue, for the Kings and other teams, is going to be the willingness to give up players currently on the NHL roster. Atlanta isn’t necessarily looking for a prospects-and-picks rebuild, a la Dean Lombardi. They have franchise viability issues, and they need to keep their NHL team looking reasonably strong.”
That remained the sticking point. In the end, the Kings simply didn’t want to take players out of their locker room for a rental. Atlanta sniffed around Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmonds, at least one of whom would have had to have been the center of a trade package. Atlanta wanted NHL players. The Kings offered prospects. There wasn’t going to be a fit unless one side budged, and neither did. In the end, I think Don Waddell did pretty good for himself under the circumstances, getting two NHL players, a prospect and a first-round pick for a rental player, albeit a fantastic one.
When it came down to it, Lombardi simply didn’t want to break up the locker room, especially for a player who might walk in three months anyway. There’s still, of course, the option that Kovalchuk could sign during the summer, presuming he intends to keep playing in the NHL. It’s been a fascinating story, and it’s definitely not done yet.