Royal headache for L.A.

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

Count the Maple Leafs among teams that wish the Los Angeles Kings would make up their minds about Ilya Kovalchuk.

Not that Toronto wants to get in on the bidding for the left winger -- general manager Brian Burke made it quite clear the price would have to drop considerably -- but if the Kings finally do get out of the Kovie bidding they will likely pass on any significant free agent shopping and look at trades.

Needing a top four defenceman to augment Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, that could lead them to kick the tires on Tomas Kaberle. Though the Leafs further prepared for Kaberle's departure this week by adding free agent Brett Lebda, Burke indicated a Kaberle deal might take some more time.

There is still five weeks until Kaberle's no-trade window closes, but with five spots already filled on the blue line, Jeff Finger still under contract and at least one kid expected to challenge at camp or by season's end, it would make no sense to sit on Kaberle another season.

If playoffs are the stated goal for the rebuilding Leafs, it won't happen without another legit scorer up front, which Kaberle would certainly fetch.

As for the Kings, GM Dean Lombardi took a look at a second proposal sent by Kovalchuk's agent on Wednesday, a reported $63 million US over 12 years or $84.5 million over 13 years, which translated to cap hits of $5.25 million and $6.5 million respectively.

But a deal couldn't be reached for the second time in four days.

The Los Angeles Times says Kovalchuk won't budge on $10 million annually, more than $400,000 more than Alex Ovechkin makes in Washington. That would seem to leave New Jersey's often quoted pitch of $60 million over seven years for the 50-goal Kovalchuk, who played a third of the season with the Devils.

THANKS PROBIE

Bob Probert's funeral will be Friday morning in Windsor with many former NHL players, coaches and executives expected to attend.

New Flyers enforcer Jody Shelley said he never met Probert off the ice, but fought him three times in one memorable game in 2002 when the Blue Jackets rookie badly needed a name for himself as someone who could fight and play. They went at it once in each period, in the days when scrapping with the legendary Red Wing/Blackhawk was akin to a teen guitarist being invited on stage to jam with Keith Richards. Shelley even addressed him as "Mr. Probert" that night."

"When I asked him to fight the first time, I heard the words come out of my mouth, and I thought, 'Oh God, I'm done,'" Shelley told the Columbus Dispatch. "He said 'no problem'. The puck dropped and there we go.

"I never got to shake the man's hand and say thanks. But, you know what? I got to meet him on the ice, doing his business. And that's a special way to meet him."

Probert, 45, died Monday of a heart attack while on a boat cruise with several family members. An autopsy showed no signs of foul play.

GERMAN GOES WILD

U.S. hockey fans will remember Dennis Endras as the host nation goalie who beat them 2-1 in overtime in front of a record 77,803 at a German soccer stadium to kick off the last world championships. Now Endras, the tournament's top goalie, has been signed by the Minnesota Wild, on a one-year, two-way contract.

The 24-year-old Bavarian pushed Germany to a fourth place showing, its best in 70 years. But the Wild doesn't see him ready for the NHL until at least 2011-12.

ICE CHIPS

Chicago's Jonathan Toews will have a lake in his native Manitoba named after him. He'll find out where from the provincial government this weekend when he brings the Stanley Cup to a ceremony in Winnipeg ... With Evgeni Nabokov off to St. Petersburg of the KHL, the Sharks have Antero Niittymaki as their No, 1 going into the season... Happy 80th birthday this week to George (The Chief) Armstrong, last Leafs captain to hoist the Stanley Cup ... The Leafs' prospect camp hasn't been just for player development, Toronto invited coach Harold Kreis from the Mannheim club in Germany to help out with on-ice sessions, while Alex Andjelic, a skills coach from the Netherlands, also worked with the prospects.

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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