NEWARK, N.J. -- Marian Hossa
, arguably the most popular player potentially on the trading block, says he needs to be assured that the Atlanta Thrashers
-- or any team -- are headed in the right direction before he signs his next lucrative contract.
Hossa, who could be an unrestricted free agent come July 1, is also well aware that it may take until the summer to figure that out, which is why he’s pretty certain no deal will get hammered out between his agent and Thrashers GM Don Waddell before the NHL trading deadline (Feb. 26, 3 p.m. ET).
Hossa, in fact, told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution for Friday’s edition the chances of him signing in the next week to 10 days are “pretty slim.” In an exclusive interview with NHL.com Friday morning at the Prudential Center, he reiterated that claim, but added a stipulation that nobody seems to be talking about.
“What I said in the paper, ‘Maybe the chances are slim right now,’ that’s what I meant for these couple to 10 days. I didn’t say in the future that I could not re-sign back here,” Hossa said. “They’re trying to do what is best for the organization and I understand that. Also, in July I will have the right to pick a team that I want to go to, but I can end up here. That’s a possibility.”
Hossa has nothing to lose and everything to gain right now. As long as he plays hard for the Thrashers, he’s doing his job and earning his current salary. Whatever happens in the next 10 days is completely out of his control.
The risks instead lie solely in Waddell’s office.
If he doesn’t sign Hossa before the deadline, than Waddell risks losing him to free agency. If he trades Hossa at or before the deadline, than he puts his team, which is right in the hunt for the Southeast Division title, at risk of missing the playoffs unless he gets a superstar in return.
Waddell, though, is convinced that riding out the season with Hossa is not only a decent option seeing where the Thrashers are in the standings and how much a player of his caliber can help, but also the wave of the future when it comes to UFAs.
“With unrestricted coming at such a young age – you’ve got guys that are 25 now that are going to be unrestricted – the landscape is changing with this new collective bargaining agreement and you’re going to see a lot more where players don’t get dealt and teams that are in it try to finish as strong as they can,” Waddell said. “We always have to worry about the future, but you also can’t forget about the present. The trend you’re going to see – it may start this year or it may start next year – but you’re going to see a lot more unrestricted players staying with their teams throughout the year and than dealing with it come July 1.”
That being said, Waddell admitted that the Thrashers’ success, or lack thereof, on this current road swing – Friday’s game at New Jersey was the first of four straight away from Atlanta before the deadline – will determine what, if anything, he does with Hossa.
“Right now we’re two points behind Carolina (for first in the Southeast Division) and right in the thick of things,” Waddell said. “We need to pick up points on this road trip … because this time of year you only have so many games left that you can’t get too far behind.”
So for now, at least this weekend, Hossa remains in limbo, and he’s dealing with it quite well. He had scored in two-straight games entering Friday night’s match against the Devils, putting his season totals at 25 goals and 26 assists through 56 games.
“Basically I know with every player that is going to be an unrestricted free agent there is going to be talk about him, and right now it’s me,” Hossa said. “I try to handle it as easily as I can and it doesn’t affect my attention when people are talking about it. When I come to the dressing room my focus is just on the game and I try to have fun with the guys in the room. It’s like every other day, and everything else stays on the outside.
There are two things that will happen, I’m either going to be traded or I’m going to stay here. There are no more. Those are the two possibilities. One of them is going to happen, so I’m prepared for both of them. - Marian Hossa
“There are two things that will happen,” Hossa later added. “I’m either going to be traded or I’m going to stay here. There are no more. Those are the two possibilities. One of them is going to happen, so I’m prepared for both of them.”
Thrashers captain Bobby Holik said he doesn’t believe any of the rumors swirling around Hossa have affected his on-ice performance or the team’s. Atlanta had won two straight and five of seven since the All-Star break heading into Friday’s game.
“I don’t think it’s impacting us, yet we talk about it every day because he’s our best player,” Holik said. “We’re not forced to (talk about it), but when your best player’s future with the team, or in general is uncertain everywhere you go people ask you the same question. So, you talk about whether it’s impacting us or not. Hopefully it’s not, but that’s for others to decide.”
Ilya Kovalchuk, who could also be labeled as the Thrashers’ best player, believes Hossa’s genuine personality is the reason he’s able to play through the rumors.
“It’s probably bothering him a little bit, but he’s tried to not show everybody,” Kovalchuk told NHL.com. “It’s a part of our business, but everybody is in it together. We have a great group of guys here and we just have to stick together. Whatever happens, everybody is hoping he’s going to stay because he’s a great man and he’s a great hockey player.”
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.