Rangers top off-season priority should be Kovalchuk

Earlier last week you all read about how the Rangers might go after St. Louis from Tampa Bay. I disagreed with that idea, because I felt that for what it would take to get him the Rangers should be able to do better. Over the past week I've had some conversations with Falconer, manager of the Atlanta Thrashers blog Bird Watchers Anonymous.  You can probably see where this is going. If you guessed Ilya Kovalchuk, you are correct.

If Kovalchuk is made available, the Rangers should pay up and get him. The 26 year old winger scored 43 goals this year and had 91 points on a pretty bad Atlanta team. Kovalchuk has always been a pure-bred sniper. In his 7 years of NHL service he has scored 297 goals. From his rookie year until this year his goal count has been 29, 38, 41, 52, 42, 52, and 43. Those are some hefty numbers, and because of that he will demand a king's ransom, and the Rangers should give it to him.

Now let's quickly discuss his availability. Falconer says that: "Based on my interview with GM Don Waddell, Kovalchuk will either be signed or traded by the end of the summer. I put the odds at 60/40 of him re-signing. But I can't imagine trade talks really heating up until right around the NHL Draft in late June.", which means that there is a fair chance that Kovalchuk might not be wearing Thrasher colors next year.

Onto the matter of what it would cost to get him. Falconer says: "I can tell you that Atlanta would require two players who could step in immediately and play. If he's going to move the face of the franchise they have to show the fans some instant return on a trade." This makes sense, and let's be honest: Kovalchuk is worth it.

Here is where I go out on another limb, although you all may take my head off for this one. In my opinion the Rangers should only have two untouchables: Staal and Grachev. Callahan, Anisimov, Sanguinetti, Girardi, Korpikoski, Zherdev and Sauer should all be available. In my opinion it would have to take a lot to get Dubinsky from the Rangers, everyone else should at least be in the conversation from the get-go.

Onto the subject of fitting him under the cap, the Rangers would have to make some room to fit his 6.4 million dollar salary under the cap. Redden or Rozsival you say? Well think again because Falconer says: "The biggest problem is the cap. The Thrashers ownership would have zero interest in adding a big contract like Redden or Rozsival; they would want young cheap players." So other contracts would obviously have to be dealt with before this happened.

How to make the money to fit Kovalchuk? If I were the GM I would bury Redden in the AHL (unless there was a taker in a trade in which I took no money in return, which would never happen), and wipe his salary off the cap. Then the Rangers should look and see if they can't move Chris Drury. I know he has a no trade clause but I would really like to see his 7.1 million dollars off the cap. I would also like to move Gomez but I am inclined to keep him on the roster so he can feed Kovalchuk.

Again most of this is speculation. Sources say that the Rangers "are aware" that Kovalchuk might be dangled. If this happens the Rangers need to get him. They need a scorer, and Kovalchuk is one of the best scorers in the league.

Just some off season speculation for you all to chew on. You're thoughts?