The NHL has hit the Olympic roster freeze with much more trade activity than was previously expected. As is always the case there was very little trade activity through the season and rabid fans took these early moves as an early silly season, flooding Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and message boards like it was deadline day. Their trade bloodlust was spurred on by "insiders" in the mostly-Canadian NHL media who, through the magic of Twitter, were able to give a constant flow of updates concerning the latest "inside scoop" on possible player movement. Once Brian Burke broke the ice by trading for Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Gigeure, all eyes turned to Atlanta and Ilya Kovalchuk's pending trade. The rumors, online, in print and on television, were huge in scope. A tally of mainstream media tips had a total of 16 teams involved in serious talks with Atlanta General Manager Don Waddell.
At one point, major media sources were contradicting each other and in some cases they were contradicting themselves. A more detailed look at the information coming out of some major mainstream sources shows that the information may not be as filtered as those sources would want their viewers and readers to believe. The major players in this look at the flood of rumors and misinformation are Craig Custance, NHL reporter for Sporting News; Bob McKenzie, TSN on-air personality; Darren Dreger, TSN on-air personality; Kevin Allen, NHL reporter for The USA Today; and SB Nation's Hockey crew, led in this case by The Falconer, Managing Editor of Bird Watcher's Anonymous.
He also said he hasn't decided whether he'd allow a potential trade partner to negotiate with Kovalchuk's agent about an extension. He didn't allow it during Marian Hossa trade talks; it's hard to imagine things changing.
"You lose control of the process," Waddell explained.
Custance jumps on this story with a great breakdown of the situation and gives the reader an understanding of what Waddell is thinking and notes that the process has already been underway for some time.
Dreger: 10:54 AM Jan 28th
Atlanta wants 4 or 5 assets for Kovalchuk. Young roster player(s), plus combo of draft picks and prospects.
Dreger is the first person to put a stake in the ground with the expected return in this trade.
SBN Hockey: 10:21 PM Feb 2nd
Kovalchuk possibly headed to LA
BWA jumps in as things heat up and he tries to piece some things together based on a source in the organization.
McKenzie: 11:18 PM Feb 2nd
You know what I think of these rumors of the LAK on verge of getting Kovalchuk? Total BS. Some interest but fit isn't right at this point.
McKenzie: 11:26 PM Feb 2nd
Now, if Kovalchuk goes to LA everyone will say it was good scoop. Telling u, at this time, there's no merit. Take it for what it's worth.
McKenzie, mostly quiet up to this point, unloads on The Falconer. He then proceeds to Tweet like a madman for two days.
SBN Hockey: 11:55 AM Feb 3rd
Atlanta taking down pictures of Kovalchuk and removing him from the website
BWA reports that pictures of Kovalchuk are coming down at Philips Arena and the Thrashers have begun to remove pictures of Kovalchuk from the website. No other major insiders report on this. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes it as well, but the "plugged-in" guys all miss it. BWA's feelings that a trade is very near are validated by the Thrashers' actions.
Dreger: 3:28 PM Feb 3rd
Following up on the RDS story. Don Waddell met with Kovalchuk today to tell him he should expect a trade. 5 or more teams still in.
McKenzie 3:32 PM Feb 3rd
RDS reports that Don Waddell met Ilya Kovalchuk today and told him to expect a trade in the coming days. Now it's on.
McKenzie and Dreger, both of whom have missed the Thrashers purging all Kovalchuk from the organization, declare the trade to be close because another mainstream media source says so. They really missed the purge angle and what it meant to the process.
Sixteen hours after he says Kovalchuk to the Kings is "total BS" and "the fit isn't right" and "there's no merit", McKenzie says that Los Angeles is in the mix.
It takes all of ten minutes for Custance to contradict McKenzie on the Chicago rumors and rule the Blackhawks out of the talks.
McKenzie: 4:18 PM Feb 3rd
At this point, Thrashers will not let any team talk to Kovalchuk about an extension. To do so would put power in hands of player/agent.
McKenzie reports that Waddell won't do a sign-and-trade. This comes twenty-seven days after Custance reported it.
Allen: 4:44 PM Feb 3rd
Thrashers' want list hasn't changed for Kovalchuk deal: they need players who can help now. There are interested teams we don't know about
Allen confirms what Dreger reported the week prior.
McKenzie: 4:52 PM Feb 3rd
About a half dozen teams still in the mix for Kovalchuk. Likely to take at least another two or three days to sort itself out. No deadline.
McKenzie, still unaware of the Thrashers eliminating Kovalchuk from the arena and website, says it's going to be another two or three days before things are sorted out. Kovalchuck was traded the following evening.
McKenzie now contradicts his own reports on Calgary's involvement.
Allen: 6:45 PM Feb 3rd
1.Kovalchuk deal won't happen tonight. 2.Surprise teams in the mix; 3. Atlanta will get better return than it got for Hossa. Go watch hockey
Friedman: 8:31 PM Feb 3rd
Kovalchuk offers lower than hoped -- http://rubyurl.com/nqAF
Friedman steps in and contradicts Allen's report about the return. Allen ends up being correct when the deal is announced.
Manno: 9:47 PM Feb 3rd
According to ESPN.com the Bruins will not make a deal with Ilya Kovalchuck. Thrashers wants Tuukka or a first rounder...not gonna happen.
Millard: 12:22 AM Feb 4th
Kovalchuk sweepstakes has the nhl world buzzing. My favs 1 bos, 2 la, 3 nj, 4 was. Chi has not talked with atl.
Sportsnet's Darren Millard jumps in late with his favorite, Boston, hours after Boston local reporter Carolyn Manno completely rules them out.
These aren't all of the Tweets that flew around during the course of those few days, but they are the majority of the meaningful messages. What comes through here is there is a good amount of guesswork going on out there, especially by the guys paid to be on the inside.
It's obvious that Craig Custance is a legitmate go-to source for Atlanta Thrashers news and Kevin Allen proved himself out quite well. This makes sense as Custance was the Thrashers beat man for the Atlanta Journal Constitution prior to moving to The Sporting News and likely still has a host of contacts in the organization that probably includes Don Waddell.
The Falconer had close general information, especially as related to timing and the general swell of offers, but missed the details and left himself open to McKenzie's public attack. He did nail the report of the Kovalchuk memorabilia being removed, which was likely the biggest angle next to the trade itself, and he stands alone there.
It's also obvious that Bob McKenzie is not close to the Thrashers, nor is Darren Dreger or Elliot Friedman. It makes sense - these are Canadian mass media personalities that haven't had to build contacts in Atlanta. They were getting second-hand information from teams that may or may not have been involved and trying to close the loop back to Atlanta to complete the puzzle of exactly what was going on. It didn't work.
It's a lesson fans should remember - buyer beware of "insider" information, even when it's coming from insiders.