Another possible suitor for Kovalchuk might be the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings, like the Bruins, have young organizational assets that would interest Atlanta. Up to now, Kings' general manager Dean Lombardi has resisted the temptation to import a high-profile scorer into his slowly rebuilding young team. Not sure if it would make any sense to do it at this stage of their development either, although the appetite to land a marquee name must surely be there.
Occasionally, trading-deadline deals can make a difference in winning and losing, although many in the recent past have had a way of backfiring on the teams that made them. Caveat emptor may be the prevailing rule of thumb, but Kovalchuk is a special talent, someone who could shift the balance of power in a very close league.
His availability - and it looks as if it may come to that - is going to tempt some hungry general manager to roll the dice and make a risky, splashy play for his rights.
SINGING THE BLUES: As part of the St. Louis Blues' coaching shuffle, the popular and effervescent Rick Wamsley - formerly an assistant on Andy Murray's staff - took over the AHL's Peoria Rivermen, replacing the new man in St. Louis, Davis Payne. For Wamsley, whose NHL playing stops included the Blues, Calgary and Toronto, this is his first head-coaching position, after years of coaching goaltenders, mostly as an NHL assistant. Wamsley was best remembered as one of four players to accompany Doug Gilmour to the Maple Leafs in that record 10-player swap with Calgary that turned out to the most lopsided deal of the 1990s.
TRADE OF THE CENTURY: The Hockey News' Ken Campbell nominated the Leafs' deal with Boston, which sent prospect Tuuka Rask to the Bruins in exchange for Andrew Raycroft - as the worst deal of the 2000s. Considering Rask's strong work for Boston this year - and his upside - that ranks right up there among the great stinkers, but was it really worse than an earlier decision by the Bruins to send Joe Thornton packing and receive three players in return (Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau?) Only Sturm remains in Boston. Thornton, in stats provided by the Elias Sports Bureau, led the NHL in assists (569) and points during the past decade; the players going Boston's way had a far less tangible impact …
OLYMPIC EFFORTS: Now that the men's Olympic hockey rosters are all in, it turns out that two West Coast teams - the Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks - lead the pack in terms of Olympians, with eight apiece, provided you count the Ducks' Luca Sbisa, who started the year in the NHL, but was sent down to junior after eight games. Sbisa is one of two players under contract to Anaheim to make Switzerland's roster; the other is goaltender Jonas Hiller. Makes you wonder, if the Ducks are so deep that they can send eight players to the Olympics, why are they languishing near the bottom of the Western Conference standings? With all hands on deck, you'd have to think that they are the one team that looks completely dead in the standings right now that could get on a roll and perhaps challenge for a playoff spot … San Jose's eight Olympians include four Canadians (Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle), along with Evgeni Nabokov (Russia), Joe Pavelski (USA), Douglas Murray (Sweden) and back-up goaltender Thomas Greiss (Germany). Normally, one rarely pays attention to those corporate driven, internal player-of-the-month awards that some teams hand out, but it was instructive and perhaps telling that the Sharks gave the December nod to Murray, a member of the supporting cast, as opposed to one of their front-line stars. Murray is a comparative unknown outside of San Jose, but he is a physically dominant defenceman, one of those under-the-radar gems that occasionally emerges in the NHL, appreciated more by his team and teammates than anyone else … Chemistry is the most elusive quality that any pick-up international team needs to develop, but it shouldn't be an issue for Olympic qualifier Latvia, which chose 15 of its 23 players from a single club, Dynamo Riga of Russia's Continental Hockey League. Curiously, the Latvians omitted the most visible name on the Riga roster, former NHL defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh, who is back playing at the age of 37 and leads the team in minutes played and points by a defenceman, according to IIHF stats. Latvia chose two NHLers (Karlis Skrastins from Dallas and Oskars Bartulis from Philadelphia), but passed on Los Angeles Kings' thumper Raitis Ivanans, presumably because they don't expect a lot of grappling at the Olympics. That's left to the Summer Games.