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Rumors of Thrashers Relocation a Topic in Kovalchuk Contract Talks

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Ben Wright has both the audio and a transcript of the Don Waddell press conference on Ilya Kovalchuk. Waddell's statement that talks have hit a snag is not a big surprise. What did surprise me is that it sounds like they are seeking some language or assurance that the team will remain in Atlanta for the duration of the contract.

The one thing we continue to keep telling people is this franchise is not going any place. Every time there's ever talk about a franchise moving we always get lumped in there- that we're going some place to another city. As we know, and our ownership has stated, we own the NBA team here along with the NHL team along with the arena. This franchise is not going any place, but we do get lumped in and it's a concern of a player that's going to sign a long term contract to remain with this franchise. He'd be signing that contract to stay here in Atlanta and not think we'd be going someplace else. There are of those kinds of factors you have to deal with.

and then later Waddell says:

Like I said the media has probably done a good job of putting us in Winnipeg and Quebec City and all these places to help stir the pot. There's been a few obstacles that are out of our control that we had to deal with along the way, so yeah, would I rather have got this deal done three months ago? I know one thing- I would have gotten more sleep by now. It still remains our first choice to get the deal done as quickly as we could.

Which answers a question I have long wondered about. When media outlets publish un-sourced speculation that the Thrashers are about to depart for Canada are they not causing material harm to the franchise? If relocation speculation is without any basis it would appear to be grossly irresponsible and in fact damaging to the franchises ability to get things done--such as talks with their star player.

I wonder if the Thrashers have ever threatened defamation suits to people who run these stories? I will point out that after Al Strachan said the Thrashers might move the next week he was kicked off Hockey Night in Canada. Perhaps it was a coincidence, perhaps not. I'm not a lawyer, so I can't say whether making false statements about a business enterprise is actionable or not, but to this non-lawyer it certainly seems that relocation rumors are producing a tangible cost to the franchise. The Thrashers ownership just spend millions suing each other. Perhaps they should drop a "cease and desist" order on the next person who claims that the Thrashers are touring the MTS Centre in Winnipeg--that ought to bolster their denials of any relocation talk.