Ilya Kovalchuk enters the free agent market as this years top prize but coming up with more than two definite suitors has been difficult.
Although there are some rumblings that LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi wants to stay away from Kovalchuk, Kings ownership fully intends to make a run at the 27 year old winger.
The other known suitor includes the New Jersey Devils who continue to have daily contact with Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman.
Now onto some potential wild cards/sleepers
New York Rangers — Just about anyone connected with the Rangers say they won’t be in the mix. The Rangers currently have about $47 million committed to 15 players and have to pay Marc Staal who will become a restricted free agent on July 1.
However, the Rangers were after Kovalchuk hard at the trade deadline and Glen Sather tries to get in the mix for just about every superstar. They can send veterans to the minors if they need to clear space. There’s going to at least be an inquiry from the Rangers.
Minnesota Wild — Former Pens Assistant GM Chuck Fletcher is not shy about trying to make a splash. He was in on Dany Heatley last year and Tomas Kaberle. He was also behind the Penguins push in 2008 to acquire Marian Hossa when some high ranking officials in the Pens organization were against the move.
Minnesota has $49 million committed to 20 players. Don’t rule them out.
St. Louis Blues — There are mixed signals on whether the Blues will get into the Kovalchuk sweepstakes. They made a play for him at the trade deadline and have over $30 million in cap space.
Teams with over $20 million in space that won’t be in the mix
Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders.
Latest UFA Rundown
  • The Buffalo Sabres have been involved in on-going discussions with defenseman Henrik Tallender but Tallinder will hit the open market tomorrow. “Probably headed to free agency tomorrow, ” Don Meehan the agent for Tallinder told Inside Pittsburgh Sports shortly after 3:30 p.m. Tallender, 31, made $3.25 million in 09-10 and is expected to draw interest of the Penguins, others tomorrow.  Word out of Tallinder’s camp is that Buffalo will still be an option.
  • Colby Armstrong, another client of Meehan’s will hit the market, which has been no secret. Armstrong is believed to be seeking a multi-year deal in the 4 year range. However, I’ve also been given the indication that Armstrong is seeking the right situation. I haven’t been told this directly from anybody in Armstrong’s camp but every inkling I’ve been given is that Atlanta is not going to be an option after July 1. One of the more intriguing wingers out there.
  • The market for Ray Whitney especially from contenders is expected to be strong. He’s seeking at least a two year deal and there are going to be a few teams that will overpay for him. Some believe he will get close to $4 million per season.
  • The Anaheim Ducks are among 4-to-5 teams expected to target Sergei Gonchar.
  • The Phoenix Coyotes and defenseman Zbynek Michalek remain in negotiations, agent Allan Walsh announced on his twitter account this afternoon.
  • Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Pavel Kubina will hit the open market. Word out of Atlanta is that he’s not showing much interest in taking a paycut. He made $5 million per season in 09-10.
  • Scouts I’ve spoken too appear torn on Kurtis Foster being a fit with the Penguins. He has offensive upside, tallying 42 points last season with Tampa Bay and has a booming shot. However, he struggles defensively and he’s not a player you want in your top-4.