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Kovalchuk watch continues

Ilya Kovalchuk is still waiting for a deal that suits his eye as a free agent. (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

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Ilya Kovalchuk is still waiting for a deal that suits his eye as a free agent. (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Kings inability to initially land Ilya Kovalchuk raised concern from Los Angeles Times’ hockey columnist Helene Elliott, who wondered about the consequences the team’s failure to land top free agent talent might have upon their future efforts to retain current Kings stars like Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmons.

Elliott suggested another way to address their roster needs would be to go the trade route, perhaps by targeting teams like the New Jersey Devils, Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins, who could seek to dump salary later this summer.

The Kings are poised to become potential Stanley Cup contenders and GM Dean Lombardi has made no secret of his willingness to bring in a notable scoring forward and perhaps another top-four defenseman.

Lombardi has plenty of promising young talent to offer up in return, but he must be careful not to give up too much of his future for a quick fix today.

Interestingly, the Kings jumped back into the Kovalchuk bidding on Wednesday and were awaiting a counter-proposal from his agent, but on Thursday came reports the Kings had rejected it and could be out of the bidding once and for all.

GAGNE TRADE ON HOLD

The wait for Ilya Kovalchuk to finally sign somewhere could be taking a toll upon the Philadelphia Flyers efforts to shop veteran winger Simon Gagne.

Since reports broke last Friday claiming Gagne agreed to waive his “no-trade” clause there’s been nothing new to report, leading the Cherry Hill Courier-Post to speculate the delay is tied indirectly to Kovalchuk.

The paper also noted the Flyers might be interested in Kings winger Wayne Simmonds, who would come with an affordable salary (just more than $800,000 next season), and suggested a swap of Gagne for Simmonds and then using the cap savings to sign a free agent goalie like Marty Turco.

Given the recent news claiming the Flyers are negotiating with Nikolai Zherdev, however, that scenario appears unlikely.

Wherever Gagne winds up this summer, the Flyers certainly cannot afford to take back much salary in return. 

ZHERDEV COMEBACK?

Former NHL winger Nikolai Zherdev apparently wants to return after spending last season playing in Russia’s Kontinental League.

Don’t expect him to be suiting up with Toronto, however, as TSN.ca cited sources claiming the Leafs, who are in the market for more scoring depth, having no interest in Zherdev.

TSN also reported Zherdev’s agent was speaking with the Buffalo Sabres, but on Wednesday reports out of Russia claimed he was in talks with the Flyers.

If, as rumored, he’s seeking a multi-year deal worth $4 million per season, he’s not going to get it from the Sabres or Flyers.

ARBITRATION BUZZ

Thirty-one NHL players filed for salary arbitration on Monday. Arbitration hearings are slated for between July 20th and August 5th.

The more notable included Chicago’s Antti Niemi, Washington’s Tomas Fleischman and Eric Fehr, Boston’s Blake Wheeler, Anaheim’s James Wisniewski, Edmonton’s Gilbert Brule, Calgary’s Ian White, Philadelphia’s Dan Carcillo, Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and the Islanders’ Matt Moulson.

Fans of those players should take heart that most who file for salary arbitration usually end up re-signing new contracts and avoiding the process entirely. By filing for arbitration those players are also ineligible to receive offer sheets from rival teams.

The downside is those who end up going before an arbiter are usually awarded a one-year contract, making them eligible for unrestricted free agency the following year. Many players who’ve been through the process end up with bruised feelings and depart via the UFA market once their arbiter-awarded contract expires.

It’ll be worthwhile to keep an eye on how their contract negotiations progress in the coming weeks.

One will be Niemi, who had comparable numbers to Jaroslav Halak, who recently signed a four-year, $15 million contract with the St. Louis Blues.

Don’t be surprised if Niemi’s agent argues his client is worth at least as much, considering he backstopped the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. 

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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