From the sounds of it, we're no closer now than we were Thursday to star forward Ilya Kovalchuk making up his mind.
Kovalchuk -- who had played his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers until he was traded to New Jersey last winter -- seemed to have three teams after him. There were assumptions by many he would end up with the star-hungry Los Angeles Kings, and the Devils were thought to have a shot. Then the New York Islanders unexpectedly entered the sweepstakes.
We don't know the winner yet, but we know it won't be the Kings.
Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Kings are out of the running for Kovalchuk.
"We took our best shot to meet his needs and the team's," Lombardi said in an email.Bottom line is that the Kings won't truly be out of the running until Kovalchuk signs elsewhere. Not only that, but while most are probably thinking that the Kings' "removal" from the Kovalchuk chase narrows his choices down to the Devils and Islanders, there is still time for another team to get involved.
Lombardi would not elaborate on where the Kings' offer fell short or where Kovalchuk might be headed. The New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders have also shown interest in signing the dynamic winger, who earlier this year turned down reported offers from Atlanta worth $101 million over 12 years and $70 million over seven years.
Kovalchuk may have turned down some big-money offers from Atlanta, but that doesn't mean he won't sell himself to the highest bidder. He's also not going to jump at the first huge offer he receives, so while the Islanders might think they can use their inconceivable amount of cap space to make the max offer possible, that doesn't mean Kovalchuk wants to play for them.
More intriguing than the real reason the Kings are out of the running for this player would be whether that statement is actually true. It also adds to the drama over where Kovalchuk -- who has two 50-goal seasons in his career -- will eventually sign.
For Kovalchuk, 27, it's still an immensely important decision. Assuming he signs a deal in the neighborhood of nine or 10 years, this will likely be the last big payday Kovalchuk can secure. He's trying to maximize that earning potential.