Don't look now, but we have a horse race in the Ilya Kovalchuk
The news that the New York Islanders
had entered the fray with a lucrative long-term offer, a reported $10 million per season for 10 years, got the attention of everyone in the hockey world, 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 ESPN.com 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.
The Times notes that losing Kovalchuk to the Isles would be another blow to the Kings, who missed out on the binge on defenseman during the opening hours of free agency. The Kings tried to get Paul Martin
and Dan Hamhuis
, both of whom went elsewhere. L.A. has enough cap space to sign Kovalchuk to a long-term, big-bucks contract and was regarded as the former Atlanta Thrasher's most likely landing point.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi said Los Angeles was still working on signing players Friday, but nothing was imminent.
"We have been, and continue to work on a number of different scenarios. We do not anticipate any resolution tonight," Lombardi said in a statement. "If something changes, we will let you know."
As for the Devils, President and GM Lou Lamoriello told the New York Post: "I'm still here [in the office], I'm not on the beach."
NHL.com's John Kreiser contributed to this report.