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Thursday, July 8, 2010
Kings out of Kovalchuk talks again

By Pierre LeBrun
ESPN.com

After re-entering negotiations with free agent Ilya Kovalchuk's camp a day earlier, the Los Angeles Kings have dropped out of the running a second time, a source told ESPN.com Thursday.

The Kings initially ruled themselves out Sunday after Kovalchuk rejected their contract offer, leaving the New Jersey Devils as the favorite to sign him.

Kovalchuk joined the Devils in early February in a trade from the Atlanta Thrashers, with whom he had played since the 2001-02 season.

Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, said in an e-mail to ESPN.com Wednesday that he would not comment but had announced Monday via Twitter that his player would decide that day which team he would sign with. However, the situation has continued to drag on.

On Monday, the New York Post reported the Devils were on the verge of signing Kovalchuk to a six-year, $60 million deal, which has not come to fruition.

On Tuesday, when contacted by ESPN.com, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said, "Everything is status quo, that's all I'm going to say."

In the meantime, sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that other teams have called Grossman with one- and two-year offers, hoping to convince Kovalchuk to do a Marian Hossa, a la Detroit in 2008-09. But a long-term deal is much more preferable since it would cover off part of the next CBA.

A long-term deal is what Kovalchuk really wants. But where? If the Kings remain out, the Devils are the likeliest destination, although Lamoriello will spend the rest of the summer trying to move bodies if he signs Kovalchuk.

Then, there's the KHL. Evgeni Nabokov signed with SKA St. Petersburg on Wednesday, so if Kovalchuk were to also go there, the club would apparently pay a hefty luxury tax. It doesn't seem like a fit at this point, although ESPN.com did receive this e-mail Thursday in response to a query made Monday to KHL president and SKA owner Alexander Medvedev:

"Dear Mr. Lebrun, in reply to your message sent July 05 to Mr. Medvedev's e-mail address we once again on behalf of Mr. Medvedev confirm that yes, it is true: SKA has offered Ilya Kovalchuk a contract."

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.