Kovy to Chicago: The Anatomy of a Rumor


I understand the excitement promised by having Kovalchuk don the Indianhead, even if it's only for six months, but before any collective wetting of pants happens, allow me to remind everyone the facts of the case:


Pierre LeBrun said:

My guess is you'll see the usual suspects inquire about Kovalchuk, teams such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and several others, but an NHL executive from a Western Conference team told me recently he wouldn't be surprised if the Chicago Blackhawks got involved.

If you're like me, you're probably surprised to hear that given the Blackhawks' cap issues; but that's exactly the point, the executive said. The Hawks could bolster their Stanley Cup chances by adding a superstar rental like Kovalchuk (who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1), but at the same time, alleviate their pending offseason cap headaches by sending a pair of salaried players to Atlanta (let's say, for example, Cam Barker and Kris Versteeg).

Now, I want to stress, this is a theory. There haven't been any talks between the Thrashers and Hawks because Atlanta has been focused on re-signing Kovalchuk. But it's an interesting theory, no?

As you can tell from the parts I bolded, a) this theory stems from a source not necessarily connected with the Blackhawks, and b) this is, in fact, just a theory. Nobody on either side has commented one way or another, and whether the Blackhawks are actually interested remains to be seen. LeBrun made the comment on HotStove, which sparked everyone's imagination (yours truly included) but what he failed to reiterate on air he did stress on paper.

Of course, more people watch than read, so if you would allow me to demonstrate:

The BleacherReport puts out an article:

If there isn’t an agreement, the Thrashers could move fairly quickly into the trade market, where Kovalchuk would undoubtedly become one of the hottest commodities available. A couple analysts believe the Blackhawks could sneak in and acquire him as early as this week.


A rumor that has been on the outside of the Kovalchuk rumor mill, which has been at least warm if not piping hot all season, is that the Blackhawks might jump into the mix and snatch the star left wing quickly.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun wrote of the rumor in his latest blog, citing a rival Western Conference GM that says adding Kovalchuk might be not only a great move for the 2009-10 Blackhawks, but also help relieve the payroll in 2010-11 as well.

Two names have been central to most of the rumors surrounding Kovalchuk: Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker. Unloading both young players wouldn’t be easy to stomach, but the impact on the Blackhawks could be incredible.

What follows is the sort of armchair GM-ing we're all familiar with, citing why Barker & Versteeg are indeed decent trade baits for Kovalchuk, and what Ilya would, in turn, bring to the table.

But note, again with the help of my bolded lines, how the rumor has gone from LeBrun (a fairly credible source, else we wouldn't be in a tizzy like we are) putting forth a theory to a couple of analysts who believe Kovalchuk is the Hawks' to steal. Then he goes on to say Versteeg and Barker are names most central to the rumors surrounding this possible trade.

Understand, though general opinion of the Bleacher Report is the way it is, I'm not saying that this article is wrong. It did cite LeBrun, including LeBrun's source (though it assumed, wrongfully or not, that the executive in question is a GM) and it did clearly say that these are all rumors. What I find rather interesting is that I have yet to come across any of these analysts mentioned who believe the Blackhawks could pull off the trade. Even LeBrun is hesitant to give the possibility more credence, but then again, what is an analyst other than a person who analyzes things? The way it is, unless these analysts are named, they could stand for any one of us who posted at least a two-paragraph comment when the link to the HotStove segment was posted as a fanshot. (Granted, maybe I've missed some other article-- if I have, do let me know.)

Of course, this is just the Bleacher Report, and who pays attention to the rumors here?

Yahoo!Sports Rumors, apparently:

The Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, and Philadelphia Flyers, among others, appear to be probable destinations for Kovalchuk, who is making $7.5 million this season.
One surprise is the Chicago Blackhawks, who supposedly would give up Kris Versteeg(notes) and Cam Barker(notes), which would save the cash-strapped Blackhawks $6 million next season.

Notice how, through sourcing and sourcing and paraphrasing, we have gone from quite comfortably from

1. A Western Conference executive telling LeBrun he thinks the Blackhawks would benefit from going after Kovalchuk;


2. A Western Conference GM told LeBrun the Blackhawks would benefit from going after Kovalchuk, something a few analysts believe they could do this week, possibly with Barker and Versteeg as trade bait;


3. The Blackhawks would supposedly give up Versteeg and Barker for Kovalchuk.

That's in three articles over the weekend. Now I don't know who the Voice of Valeri is, let alone Valeri, but the following quote is from an article they linked to on Twitter (which I came across while searching for Kovalchuk):

The Bleacher Report reports that the Thrashers have offered F Ilya Kovalchuk both 10 and 12-year contracts, which appear to be final offers, before the team begins to actively shop him. One team that ahs expressed a lot of interest are the Blackhawks, and as of right now, they appear to be the frontrunners. Kovalchuk is in the final year of a deal paying him $7.5M, with a cap number of $6.4M.

Frontrunners? Interested? You don't say.

If Kovalchuk doesn't sign with the Thrashers today (and hang on a second here, but who says today is the deadline before Waddell starts looking at trade as an option? Am I supposed to try and go down another rabbit hole to track this one too?), can you imagine what this will look like at the end of the week? Not only is Stan Bowman burning the wires trying to get Kovalchuk to Chicago, but he'd have reportedly offered Byfuglien, Skille, and his first-born too, so he gets contract negotiation rights when Kovalchuk's current one runs out.

All this because some suit in the Western Conference was talking with Pierre LeBrun and said, "Now wouldn't it be interesting if..."

Wouldn't it be interesting, indeed.

EDIT: I forgot to mention the following:

1. The irony that the most accurate sourcing of the rumor I have seen is in an article that isn't even about the rumor alone.

2. Lost in the chain-of-articles mentioned above is The Fourth Period's take on the situation, which I read but failed to catch in my morning reading, but which didn't pass the Puck Daddy screen test:

The Chicago Blackhawks are among the teams supposedly interested in Kovalchuk. According to CBC, the Hawks would be willing to part with some of their high-priced players, such as Cam Barker and Kris Versteeg, in an attempt to fix their cap problems.

Which only demonstrates my point beautifully. The Fourth Period, arguably a more credible source of information than the Bleacher Report, has gone beyond reporting this as a rumor to reporting it as a fact, inaccurately citing sources along the way and thus adding a layer of credibility that should by no means be there at all.

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