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Kovalchuk's future uncertain in Atlanta

NHL.com @NHL

DULUTH, Ga. (AP) -Ilya Kovalchuk's prolific career with the Atlanta Thrashers may soon end.

Atlanta general manager Don Waddell, insisting the team can't meet Kovalchuk's demands for a maximum NHL contract, says the Thrashers "are aggressively exploring all of our options as we move forward" in attempts to trade their captain before the March 3 deadline.

"Unfortunately, we've reached an impasse and at this point he has declined all of our proposals," Waddell said in a statement Thursday, "and we can't reasonably go any higher."

After practice Thursday morning, Kovalchuk acknowledged meeting with Waddell this week and was told the team is trying to deal him to a contender. Kovalchuk indicated, however, that he prefers to stay with the Thrashers.

"It's a business, and you never know what's going to happen," Kovalchuk said. "I'm still here and I'm still hoping something is going to happen because the deadline is coming."

Kovalchuk's agent Jay Grossman did not return phone messages from The Associated Press.

Since the Thrashers drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001, Kovalchuk leads the NHL with 328 goals, but Atlanta, an expansion team that debuted in 1999-2000, has made just one playoff appearance and has never won a postseason game.

He's in his second season as captain for a team that is 11th in the Eastern Conference with 56 points. Three teams are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot with 57 points.

The NHL has changed the schedule for teams to make roster moves because of the break for the Vancouver Olympics. Teams are forbidden to make any transactions from 3 p.m. on Feb. 12 to just before midnight on Feb. 28.

Kovalchuk insists he felt no awkwardness Thursday in what might have been his last practice with the Thrashers. He plans to be in uniform Friday when Atlanta visits Washington.

"The rumors have been flying all season long," he said. "What do you want me to do? Sit at home and cry? I love hockey, and not just because of money. I guess I want to show up, play and win games."

An NHL.com report said Boston, New Jersey, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and the New York Rangers are among the teams who've spoken with the Thrashers about Kovalchuk.

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