NHL Free Agency: Ilya Kovalchuk Out Of Los Angeles Kings' Reach

Name NameCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 20:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Wachovia Center on April 20, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Devils 4-1 to take a three games to one lead in their best of seven series.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Kings are reported to be out of the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes.

At one point, they seemed like the front-runners, but after a lucrative offer from the New York Islanders, the Kings have fled from the Russian superstar.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi would not tell exactly why they removed their bid on the talented winger.

"We took our best shot to meet his needs and the team's," Lombardi explained to the Times' Helene Elliott on Sunday.

There are a few possible reasons why the Kings withdrew themselves from the Kovy sweepstakes: Maybe Kovalchuk didn't like the idea of playing in L.A.; maybe he liked the offer from the Islanders or Devils better.

Or maybe he just, flat out, wanted more money that the Kings don't have to spend.

This leaves the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders as the last two teams believed to be in the race for Kovalchuk. Garth Snow has confirmed that he has made an offer to Kovy. Rumour has it that deal is worth about $10 million a year for 10 years.

The Isles have plenty of money to spend, so they have the upper hand over the money-tight Devils in the bid for Ilya Kovalchuk.

If Kovy signs with New York, that would almost immediately turn them into a playoff team. Imagine Ilya Kovalchuk on the same team, maybe even on the same line, as John Tavaras. That'd be deadly, my friends. With the additions of Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina, they have solidified their defence as well.

With Kovalchuk now off of L.A's radar, they might focus on re-signing fellow Russian winger Alexander Frolov.

Frolov has played with the Kings for his entire NHL career, but his numbers have been declining over the past four years. Last season he scored 19 goals and 51 points, which is nothing compared to his 35 goals and 71 points four years ago.

Also, with the Kings no longer having Kovy as an option, this shuts down other trade rumours that have been flowing. It had been rumoured that they had been in trade talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs, possibly involving a player like Brayden Schenn or even Dustin Brown, with Tomas Kaberle or Luke Schenn going the other way in theory.

We do not know if those deals were dependant on the Kings signing Kovalchuk, but they look a lot more unlikely now that he won't be in the mix.

Without the offensive threat of Kovy coming to L.A, the Kings may not feel as comfortable trading some of their own offensive players. Thus, it seems as though not landing Kovalchuk may set off a domino effect of trades not going through.

Some believe that the Kings weren't a good fit for Ilya anyway. Some believe the perfect fit for him is in another country in the KHL. We might see the last two teams come out of this contest empty handed, and a Russian team taking home the big prize. 

For a Russian player like Kovalchuk, there is always that temptation to return home and play in a lower level hockey league, get paid more money, and be closer to family.

I personally give it one more week. I believe by then, we will know where Ilya is headed.

Until then, Kovalchuk may hold all the cards.

But one team, be it NHL or KHL, is going to hit the jackpot.

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