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What's next for Ilya Kovalchuk?

Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102-million deal with New Jersey was declined by the NHL Tuesday. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102-million deal with New Jersey was declined by the NHL Tuesday. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With the league having rejected the New Jersey Devils’ 17-year, $102-million contract with Ilya Kovalchuk based on the fact it circumvents the salary cap, it remains to be seen if Devils GM Lou Lamoriello will attempt to restructure and re-submit the contract or if the NHLPA will file a grievance on Kovalchuk’s behalf.

Currently neither Kovalchuk, his agent, Lamoriello nor the NHLPA are publicly commenting on the situation, but if Lamoriello is able to retain Kovalchuk he’ll have to free up considerable salary cap space to absorb the winger’s new salary.

Under the disputed contract, Kovalchuk’s cap hit was $6 million per season, which, as NHL salary site CapGeek.com noted, pushed the Devils’ payroll over the league’s cap ceiling of $59.4 million by more than $1.8 million.

Possible trade candidates include forwards Brian Rolston, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus and defensemen Colin White and Bryce Salvador.

Of this group, Zajac would attract considerable interest from rival clubs, but Lamoriello might prefer to retain him. Rolston’s age (37), no-trade clause and declining production would make him a tough sell, while the Devils are likely stuck with the overpaid Zubrus. White also has a no-trade, while Salvador’s salary ($2.9 million) might not prove attractive.

Lamoriello, however, has been in this situation before and was the first GM to use the tactic of burying salary in the minors. Don’t be surprised if he does it again.

KINGS STILL IN KOVALCHUK HUNT?

The Los Angeles Kings lost out on Kovalchuk, but GM Dean Lombardi said he wouldn’t rule out revisiting contract talks if the opportunity presented itself, which has some bloggers speculating he’s already contacted the Kovalchuk camp.

Lombardi, however, also stated he believes the NHLPA will get involved on Kovalchuk’s behalf to uphold the deal.

In the meantime Lombardi might consider exploring the trade market for either a scoring winger or a defenseman.

Ken Campbell of THN.com praised Lombardi for not investing too much payroll in Kovalchuk at the expense of creating potential difficulties in retaining his top young talent like Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds and Jack Johnson.

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BLACKHAWKS NEED CAP SPACE

The Chicago Blackhawks still have a pressing need to dump salary, sitting just more than $1 million above the cap with six more roster spots to fill.

Center Patrick Sharp was rumored to be the next candidate to be shopped, but GM Stan Bowman dismissed that speculation, telling Sharp he won’t be dealt.

It’s been assumed Bowman’s statement means he won’t re-sign goalie Antti Niemi, who is slated for salary arbitration at month’s end. But the Chicago Daily Herald suggested that’s not the case, as Bowman could let Niemi’s salary be decided by an arbiter in hopes of getting an affordable deal.

It’s also rumored the Blackhawks are shopping Brian Campbell and his annual salary of $7.145 million. He has a limited no-trade clause in which he can present management with a list of eight teams he’d accept a deal to, which Campbell claimed Bowman already had and could be amended, though the blueliner insisted he wanted to remain a Blackhawk.

The Blackhawks can get under the cap before next season by demoting Cristobal Huet and his $5.625 million contract, but they’ll still need more cap space if they’re to complete the remainder of their lineup before then.

That’s why Campbell’s name has appeared in the rumor mill. And while Bowman would probably love to move Campbell’s salary there aren’t likely to be many takers. They could also walk away from Niemi’s arbitration award if it’s more than $3 million, but would still be in need of a veteran goalie.

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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