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Keep an eye on the Los Angeles Kings; they are going to be real aggressive in trying to add a big name this offseason.
Plan A will be a run at star winger Ilya Kovalchuk on July 1. If the Kings strike out there, they might then go after unrestricted free-agent forward Patrick Marleau if he hasn't been re-signed by the Sharks. Marleau played under Kings GM Dean Lombardi during the exec's time in San Jose, so that's a natural fit.
If they can't land Kovalchuk or Marleau, then the trade route is always there. The Kings' system is loaded with assets after years of proper rebuilding, and there will be NHL teams needing salary-cap relief with forwards for sale.
But it will all start with Kovalchuk. I don't think July 1 will bring the Russian star as big an offer as the two deals he turned down in Atlanta this past season: 12 years, $101 million and seven years, $70 million.
Well, he won't get that much from an NHL team on July 1. But what about the KHL? One NHL source told ESPN.com Saturday that he's hearing the KHL is ready to lure Kovalchuk with a deal that could pay him as much as $12 million per season. I don't believe it would be that much. But as I've written before in this space, I do think the KHL will make a serious run at Kovalchuk. No question there.
Reached via e-mail in Germany, where he's attending the World Championships, Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, offered up a "no comment."
By the way, an NHL source believes the KHL will also takes runs at defenseman Anton Volchenkov and forward Alexander Frolov, both UFAs July 1. Mind you, word is Volchenkov and Frolov would rather stay in the NHL.
The Ottawa Senators still hope to retain Volchenkov, who is also represented by Grossman.
"I will definitely resume talks with them [before July 1]," Sens GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com Saturday.
Ryan, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent July 1 and contract talks picked up again this past week with veteran agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports. Meanwhile, there is still no decision from either winger Teemu Selanne or defenseman Scott Niedermayer on their playing futures.
"I spoke with Scott this week and he's still undecided," Niedermayer's agent, Kevin Epp of Titan Sports Management, told ESPN.com Saturday. "But he'll probably make a decision by the draft."
Selanne's agent, Don Baizley, also said Saturday the Finnish Flash has still not made a decision on next season.
Let me say this about the Hawks: I challenged them to find their A-game after their pitiful Game 1 performance, not just for one period or one game, but for now on in these playoffs. And they've done just that. This was a team that went 11-7-3 after the Olympics (not exactly dominant), and that laissez-faire attitude carried into their first-round series against Nashville, where the Hawks did just enough to get through and, quite frankly, were lucky to win the pivotal fifth game.
But whatever Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told his squad after Game 1 against Vancouver, we are finally seeing the team that many picked to win the Stanley Cup this year. They are dynamite right now.
Not to be overlooked in all this is the play of Antti Niemi, the rookie Finnish netminder who by now can finally ease the concerns of Hawks fans and his critics.
It's important the Hawks figured this out. They won't have this many weapons next season when GM Stan Bowman is forced to shed a few players because of the salary-cap concerns caused by the new extensions that kick in for Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith.
On the Canucks' side of things, a team I picked to come out of the Western Conference before the playoffs, it's ugly.
"I'm shocked," an Eastern Conference GM who requested anonymity told me Saturday. "I also had them coming out of the West. I can't believe they look this bad right now."
The one player who has gone MIA is Ryan Kesler. This dude can bring it, as we saw him do for Team USA at the Olympics in February; but he's been strangely quiet in this series, going pointless in the two losses at home. The Canucks can be such a dangerous team when the Sedins are doing their thing on one line, and Kesler is doing his on the other. Right now, the Canucks are a one-line team, and it's killing them against the Hawks, who have more offensive depth throughout their lineup.
Tallon was replaced as Hawks GM by Bowman last summer. And while no one has an issue with Bowman, who is a good hire and smart hockey guy, some in the GM fraternity are still sour at Hawks president John McDonough for sacking Tallon.