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New Jersey Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk grins as he comes to the bench after the Devils scored against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first period of their NHL hockey game in Newark, New Jersey, February 5, 2010. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine


One of the slowest free-agent markets in the postlockout NHL continued over the weekend, with the only news being Ilya Kovalchuk's refusal to accept an offer from the Los Angeles Kings.

"We took our best shot to meet his needs and our team's," Kings general manager Dean Lombardi told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.

At this point, it is not clear who remains in the running for Kovalchuk, 27, who scored 41 goals last season and turned down a 12-year, $101-million contract (all currency U.S.) from the Atlanta Thrashers before he was traded to the New Jersey Devils.

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He has scored at least 41 goals in his last six NHL seasons.

It is believed the Devils and the New York Islanders remain in the hunt, although the Kings could get back in at any time. Islanders GM Garth Snow said he made a call to Kovalchuk's agent on Friday night, but there has been no confirmation of reports Islander owner Charles Wang made an offer of $100-million over 10 years to Kovalchuk.

By Sunday, a lot of big names on the list of unrestricted free agents remained without contracts. In addition to Kovalchuk, goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov, Marty Turco and Jose Theodore were unsigned, along with forwards Bill Guerin, Paul Kariya and Maxim Agfinogenov.

However, according to calculations done by The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle, there is still lots of cash left for those free agents. While the salary cap for this coming season will be $59.4-million, the average NHL team has spent only $47.9-million so far.

That spending includes performance bonus overages for last season, which are taken off a team's cap room for the 2010-11 season.

This is the situation the Toronto Maple Leafs are in, as they went $1.4-million over last season's cap due to bonuses, according to the NHL salary website It appears the majority of the bonuses responsible for the overage were for centre Tyler Bozak and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who both signed as free agents.

This means the Leafs will have a roughly $58-million limit on next season's salary cap.

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However, team sources say this is not an issue as the overage will be accounted for in general manager Brian Burke's moves this summer. Since Burke is still looking for an experienced defenceman - presuming he will be able to trade veteran Tomas Kaberle - and a first-line centre, an expensive veteran like defenceman Jeff Finger, who has two years left on his contract at $3.5-million a year, will likely be waived and end up playing for the Toronto Marlies next season.

Centre Mikhail Grabovski, who has a $2.9-million cap hit, could also be playing elsewhere.

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About the Author
Hockey columnist

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun. He graduated in 1978 from Conestoga College and also attended the University of Waterloo. More

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