Kings won't crown Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils celebrates a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks at the...

Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils celebrates a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Prudential Center on April 2, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (JIM McISAAC/Getty Images)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:27 AM ET

Hold off purchasing those Ilya Kovalchuk jerseys in Los Angeles.

At least for now.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi told the Los Angeles Times Sunday he has struck out in signing the free-agent scorer.

“We took our best shot to meet his needs and the team’s,” Lombardi said in an e-mail.

Lombardi wouldn’t say how far apart the two sides were in negotiations. Nor would he divulge where he expected the 27-year-old to sign.

The New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders are reportedly interested in the services of Kovalchuk, who has collected 338 goals and 642 points in 621 NHL games since he was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2001. Kovalchuk reportedly turned down contract offers from the Thrashers worth US$101 million over 12 years and $70 million over seven years before he was traded to the Devils in February.

In 76 games with the Thrashers and the Devils last season, he collected

41 goals and 85 points. He netted two goals and six points in the playoffs for a Devils team which lost in five games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.

The Islanders are reportedly willing to offer a 10-year, $100-million deal.

The Flyers are also believed to be interested in Kovalchuk, but they would have to clear nearly as much salary to sign him.

The Kings, one of the few competitive teams with the salary-cap space to easily fit Kovalchuk, had targeted the winger — not only for his goal-scoring ability but also to create the kind of buzz you receive with a marquee player.

Lombardi’s statement could also be a negotiating tactic. Few teams would be able to easily fit in Kovalchuk, therefore it may be a way of trying to bring down the price.

There have been reports that Kontinental Hockey League squad SKA St. Petersburg is looking to sign Kovalchuk to a lucrative deal beyond what any NHL team could match — a three-year, $42-million pact.

The Kings were not active in the first few days of free agency and therefore missed out on several potential players while focused on Kovalchuk.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t acquire the scoring winger they desire.

A report by CSNPhilly.com said the Kings are a potential trade destination for Flyers forward Simon Gagne, who has one year remaining on a contract worth $5.25 million.

The Flyers may be looking to shed Gagne’s salary in their annual salary-cap tap dance.


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