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Sean Leahy

Kovalchuk and turtlenecks safe in Atlanta for the moment

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

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What was that Benjamin Franklin quote? Death ... taxes ... Don Waddell's job security?

It's seemed as if the only general manager in Atlanta Thrashers history has tried his hardest to get fired, but for whatever reason fails at that.

Remember that Seinfeld episode where George Costanza spilled strawberry juice on an old Babe Ruth jersey and then dragged one of the New York Yankees' World Series trophies across the parking lot?

Are we that far off from seeing Waddell run through the Thrashers offices with just a game-worn Steve Staios jersey on, only to remain in power?

Waddell's biggest decision is the future of Ilya Kovalchuk, who won't become an unrestricted free agent until July 1, 2010.

This week, he adamantly denied reports (Bruce "Malkin to the King" Garrioch strikes again!) that he held serious talks about dealing the Russian sniper:

"We haven't spoken to one team about trading him," Waddell said. "We don't plan on speaking to any team about trading him. He's the cornerstone of this franchise. He's not going anywhere.

"We're going to do everything in our power, when we have that opportunity to sign him [beginning July 1, 2009], we're going to try to do that. I've stated it numerous times. We're not trading Ilya Kovalchuk."

Therein lies the issue for Waddell.

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Atlanta has made the playoffs once in franchise history and was quickly swept by the New York Rangers in 2007. Kovalchuk has grown frustrated of losing, lack of playoff appearances and failure of the organization to put a team around him. He's also tired of seeing players whom he's played well with depart without a fruitful return.

With the Thrashers currently toiling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference yet again and attendance resembling that of your local Sons of Italy's "Bingo Night," what Waddell does with Kovalchuk will determine the fate of the franchise.

Trading Kovalchuk could bring the death of the Thrashers sooner than later depending on the type of return involved.

Attempting to re-sign Kovalchuk would be risky, as the Thrashers would need to be in playoff contention before bringing up the idea of a new contract.

Sporting News' Craig Custance spoke with Waddell and it seems as if the decision on Kovalchuk's future in Atlanta is not atop his agenda at the moment:

"It doesn't make sense. If you're talking about when we get into a position where we can't re-sign him, you know what? That would be a fair question," Waddell said. "But right now? It makes absolutely no sense ... I haven't seen anything that makes any sense to this franchise right now that would make me even think about trading Ilya Kovalchuk. I can't be any clearer about it."

And so we await the continuing rumors on Kovalchuk's future until the day he actually is dealt from Atlanta.

As much as Waddell can put off any talk about a potential deal, he has to realize that like the case of Marian Hossa, the writing is on the wall -- and there's an incredibly slim chance that Kovy stays.

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