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Where's Ilya Kovalchuk?

Ilya Kovalchuk signed a 17-year, $102-million contract with New Jersey, but it was rejected by the NHL. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Ilya Kovalchuk signed a 17-year, $102-million contract with New Jersey, but it was rejected by the NHL. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Since an arbiter earlier this month upheld the league’s decision to reject Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102-million contract with the New Jersey Devils things have been very quiet regarding his contract status.

While Kovalchuk trains in Russia for the upcoming NHL season, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello recently spoke about the situation, saying he was maintaining the “status quo,” meaning he’s still negotiating with the winger’s agent.

Internet speculation persists the Los Angeles Kings will try to renew contract talks with Kovalchuk, but GM Dean Lombardi appeared to dismiss it, telling CKAC radio in Montreal during a recent interview he wasn’t going to comment on Kovalchuk’s status and, with training camp approaching, is focused on his roster.

In other words, it sounds like Lombardi doesn’t intend to make a bid for Kovalchuk as long as the Devils continue working on a contract for the sniper that the league will accept.

If those talks fall through, Lombardi might be interested in re-opening negotiations, but Kings fans probably shouldn’t anticipate that happening anytime soon.

NIEMI IN MIAMI?

Goaltender Antti Niemi remains available on the UFA market, but there’s speculation he’ll have a reunion with former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon, who’s now running the Florida Panthers.

NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reports the reunion wouldn’t be easy to achieve, given the Panthers currently have Tomas Vokoun (who’ll earn $6.3 million this season) and Scott Clemmensen (who has two years and $2.6 million remaining on his contract) as their goaltending tandem.

Tallon told Rosen his club has interest in any player with a background like Niemi’s, but unless he can find a taker for Vokoun (who also has a no-movement clause) or moves Clemmensen via trade or demotion (the latter probably not something the cost-conscious Panthers ownership would approve) and Niemi is willing to accept a backup role, a reunion appears remote.

THN.com’s Edward Fraser recently listed the Panthers amongst this summer’s off-season losers, suggesting Tallon’s moves haven’t improved their lot.

Adding Niemi certainly won’t address the issues Fraser raised in his blog.

CAPITALS LOOKING FOR BLUELINER

More than a week has passed since the Globe and Mail reported the Washington Capitals were working on a trade that would have shipped out a forward (rumored to be Tomas Fleischmann) for a defenseman, but the deal has yet to materialize.

That’s not to suggest it won’t occur, but it’s obviously taking longer than expected.

Perhaps the reason is the Capitals are negotiating with more than one team. The Edmonton Journal reported Thursday the Caps are believed to be in talks with the Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks, suggesting either Sheldon Souray or Kevin Bieksa as the targets.

That could have an impact as well upon where unrestricted free agent blueliner Willie Mitchell goes. The Canucks and Capitals are two of the teams on his list of preferred destinations, but according to his agent, no contract signing is imminent.

Speaking of Bieksa, the Columbus Blue Jackets are reportedly amongst several teams interested in him, but apparently nothing serious has come in from them yet.

Mitchell’s signing could also determine where, if anywhere, Bieksa gets moved prior to the start of the upcoming season. Though with Sami Salo sidelined for likely the first half of the ’10-11 campaign with a torn Achilles tendon, Canucks management might opt to retain Bieksa until Salo is ready to return.

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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