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NHL Free Agency: Ilya Kovalchuk May Sign With Los Angeles Kings

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 22:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Prudential Center at on April 22, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Mark RitterSenior Writer IJuly 7, 2010

It appears as if the Los Angeles Kings have re-entered the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes.

Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times recently tweeted that Kings' general manager Dean Lombardi said the Kings have “re-engaged” in contract talks with Kovalchuk, and Kovalchuk is expected to make a counter-offer to the Kings in the near future.

Kovalchuk is widely regarded as the biggest unrestricted free agent to hit the market in decades, if not ever.

The New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils have also been rumored to have kicked the tires on Kovalchuk. The Islanders are rumored to have offered the talented Russian a long-term deal that would see Kovalchuk make $10 million per year, while the Devils were reportedly close to signing Kovalchuk to a seven-year, $60 million deal over the weekend.

There is also interest from the Kontinental Hockey League in the form of SKA St. Petersburg (who signed highly-sought after free agent goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to a four-year deal worth a reported $24 million earlier today), although the terms being offered to Kovalchuk are sketchy up to this point.

Clearly, it is far too early for a player of Kovalchuk’s caliber to be considering a move to the KHL. That said, stranger things have happened.

As it stands right now, it appears as if the battle for Kovalchuk is down to two teams—the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils.

According to capgeek.com, the Devils have a total of 18 players under contract for the 2010-11 season with $4,748,333 in cap room with which to sign Kovalchuk and three other players.

Clearly, if the Devils are to pull off a deal for Kovalchuk, they would have to either trade a big salary or get very creative with a long-term deal that would have to be back-loaded.

As for the Kings, they have a total of 16 players under contract for the 2010-11 season with $17,526,666 in cap room with which to sign Kovalchuk and five other players.

Needless to say, both teams offer Kovalchuk an exceptional chance to compete for a Stanley Cup next season, with both teams offering impressive defenses for Kovalchuk to play in front of.

On the surface, it appears as if the Devils will put together the better team on the ice next season, but that could all change with a few free agent signings by the Kings.

Either way, as good as the Devils and Kings are, the addition of Kovalchuk would elevate both teams' statuses to potential Stanley Cup Champs—it’s just that simple.

Stay tuned...it looks like the Kovalchuk sweepstakes is about to get very juicy!

Until next time,

Peace!

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