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Kovalchuk will wait another day

by Phil Coffey /
Jay Grossman, the agent for free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk, teased the hockey world Monday. Grossman said on his Twitter account that the winger's decision could be announced Monday, but then said Monday evening that no decision was forthcoming.

"Ilya Kovalchuk looking to make decision on his future today," Grossman, who has kept a low profile during negotiations, tweeted a little after noon ET Monday.

By Monday night Grossman tweeted; "Ilya Kovalchuk choices have been narrowed down, details to be finalized, but no announcement tonight."

So, who will sign Kovalchuk? General Manager Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings declared the Kings out of the mix Sunday, presumably leaving the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders in the mix. But in high-stakes negotiations like this, few decisions are set in stone.

Devils President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello was unavailable to reporters all day Monday.

Sunday, the Los Angeles Times said the Kings would not be signing Kovalchuk. Lombardi told the Times' Helene Elliott Sunday afternoon that talks between Kovalchuk and the team are over.

"We took our best shot to meet his needs and the team's," Lombardi said in an email.

Lombardi would not elaborate on where the Kings' offer fell short or where Kovalchuk might be headed. The New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders have also shown interest in signing the dynamic winger, who earlier this year turned down reported offers from Atlanta worth $101 million over 12 years and $70 million over seven years.

The news that the Islanders had entered the negotiations with a lucrative long-term offer, a reported $10 million per season for 10 years, got the attention of everyone in the hockey world Friday, especially the Kings and Devils, who had been the two clubs widely reported to be the frontrunners to sign Kovalchuk, who scored 41 goals in Atlanta and New Jersey last season and who has 338 career goals in 621 regular-season games.

Isles GM Garth Snow confirmed to both Newsday and that he contacted Kovalchuk's representatives and the Los Angeles Times, citing the ever-popular "source who is familiar with the situation but isn't authorized to speak about it publicly" is reporting that the Isles could make an offer worth $10 million a year for 10 years.

"I have to do my due diligence and look at all the options, it's as simple as that," Snow told Newsday.  "Over the last couple of days I've made maybe a hundred calls and explored options where, maybe it doesn't come to fruition, but I'm not doing my job if I don't make those calls."

"I made one preliminary call and we'll see where it goes," Snow said. "I felt it was my duty to make the call to inquire."

The Islanders, who are currently well below the salary cap floor, have plenty of room to fit such a contract. Luring a proven scorer such as Kovalchuk not only would give a huge boost to the rebuilding Isles -- picture Kovy playing on the wing with John Tavares in the middle -- but there's the possibility that bringing one of the NHL's top stars to the Island could give a boost to owner Charles Wang's hopes for a new or remodeled Nassau Coliseum.

Should Kovalchuk join the Isles, it would be an interesting closing of a circle. The Isles finished last in 2000-01, but lost the draft lottery to Atlanta -- which used the No. 1 pick on Kovalchuk, who had passed Jason Spezza in the draft ratings. Then Isles-GM Mike Milbury opted to deal the No. 2 pick to Ottawa as part of a package for Alexei Yashin -- a deal that didn't turn out the way the Isles had hoped. Had the Isles retained the No. 1 pick after the lottery, Milbury likely would have kept it and taken Kovy.'s John Kreiser contributed to this report.

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