Kovalchuk to visit Kings in L.A.

Updated: July 11, 2010, 8:18 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

The on-again, off-again contract talks between Ilya Kovalchuk and the Los Angeles Kings are back on again and this time they'll be in person.

There was one report Sunday that said the Kings would announce his signing Monday but the Kings say that's not true.

Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk

"Ilya is coming out to LA," Kings GM Dean Lombardi told ESPN.com Sunday night. "We're going to meet face to face. But reports that we are announcing his signing tomorrow are utterly and completely false. We have no deal. We're not even close. I mean, who knows, maybe we'll get close tomorrow but we have no deal right now."

A source told ESPN.com on Thursday that the Kings had dropped out of the running for the Russian sniper for the second time, leaving the New Jersey Devils as the favorite to sign him.

Kovalchuk joined the Devils in early February in a trade from the Atlanta Thrashers, with whom he had played since the 2001-02 season.

Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, said in an e-mail to ESPN.com Wednesday that he would not comment but he announced Monday via Twitter that his player would decide that day which team he would sign with. However, the situation has continued to drag on.

On Monday, the New York Post reported the Devils were on the verge of signing Kovalchuk to a six-year, $60 million deal, which has not come to fruition.

On Tuesday, when contacted by ESPN.com, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said, "Everything is status quo, that's all I'm going to say."

In the meantime, sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that other teams have called Grossman with one- and two-year offers, hoping to convince Kovalchuk to agree to a deal similar to the one Marian Hossa signed with Detroit in 2008-09. But a long-term deal is much more preferable since it would cover part of the next CBA.

The Russian-based KHL looms as an option and Evgeni Nabokov's decision to sign with SKA St. Petersburg on Wednesday only boosts the league's profile.

If Kovalchuk were to join Nabokov with SKA St. Petersburg, the club would apparently pay a hefty luxury tax. It doesn't seem like a fit at this point, although ESPN.com did receive this e-mail Thursday in response to a query made Monday to KHL president and SKA owner Alexander Medvedev:

"Dear Mr. Lebrun, in reply to your message sent July 05 to Mr. Medvedev's e-mail address we once again on behalf of Mr. Medvedev confirm that yes, it is true: SKA has offered Ilya Kovalchuk a contract."

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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