Atlanta Thrashers fans gladly pass on Kovalchuk 'drama'

ilyawnasathrasher.jpgAt the 18 day mark, we may just run out of thesaurus entries for the word “exhausting” when describing the Ilya Kovalchuk saga. Dare someone use the headline “Ilyawn” at this point? The give-and-take between the Russian winger and the Los Angeles Kings/New Jersey Devils has been drawn out beyond well-worn boundaries, not unlike the excessive buildup between two attractive co-eds in a typical sitcom. “Just get it over with, already,” we said a week ago. At least.

There’s at least one group of people who might only find this amusing: Atlanta Thrashers fans. One happens to write a column/blog for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and he expresses relief in not having to follow “As the Kovalchuk Turns” this time around.

So if there is to be a repeat of that holdout drama, then Kovy-Watch ’10 as only just begun.

About the only thing that seems to be certain regarding Ilya’s summer adventure this time is that he’s not going to get the same coin as the Thrashers offered up to him last winter. $10 million for 3 to 7 years or somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 mil for 12 years is now surely out of the question for Kovy.

So just where will Kovalchuk eventual wind up…and when will he wind up there? shrugs…I dunno. But all I can say is that I’m glad happy thrilledecstatic that Thrasherville is not the site of this particular saga.

In fact, I’m sorta looking forward this coming season in which the Thrashers aren’t having to deal with such distractions. You know, distractions such as whether or not superstars like Marian Hossa or Ilya Kovalchuk will re-sign…or if Kari Lehtonen’s back/groin/[insert issue here] will keep him out of the lineup for an extended period of time.

Quite frankly…Thrasherville can do without the drama.

(Not really sure why he employed the “strike-through” gimmick there, but to each his own, I guess.)

Rather than counting on mercurial talents, the Thrashers are shifting their focus to building a team that is about as subtle as a kick to the junk. It’s unclear if such a departure will actually result in an increase in victories, but at least Atlanta won’t be a glorified vacation for opposing teams any longer. A team once embodied by its departed Russian captain is already looking drastically different just six-or-so-months later.

We’ll see if Thrashers fans should like what they see starting in October.

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.