TORONTO -- The NHL Players' Association had hoped to have a new leader by now -- and for that leader's name to be Donald Fehr -- but there was no announcement Wednesday at the end of its executive board meetings.
As it turns out, the NHLPA committee searching for a new executive director still has some work to do.
"We got an update from the search committee. They've been doing a lot of work and they're going to continue to do that," Calgary Flames player representative Robyn Regehr told a small gaggle of media at a downtown hotel. "They do have a number of candidates whittled down to a manageable number, and I think they are going to continue to do interviews."
The initial belief among union circles was the new leader would be ready to take over after this week's executive board (player rep) meetings. Not so.
So when will the NHLPA have a new leader?
"The time frame is hopefully in time for this fall, for training camps," Regehr said. "Because the new person, whoever that is, is going to have a very heavy travel schedule to go around and to visit each and every player and each and every team. Originally, we wanted to do that in the summertime, but because of some different things the search committee is talking about and the people that they're talking with, they're going to take a little bit more time."
The delay is partly because the search committee, composed of Ryan Getzlaf, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rafalski, Brian Rolston and Mathieu Schneider, is not only talking to candidates other than Fehr but also debating different leadership scenarios. And that's what is really interesting here.
While no one would say so Wednesday, one assumes the committee's debate is whether Fehr should be the executive director for a short stint with the purpose of grooming his successor or if he simply stays on as an adviser to the new executive director. In other words, what role do they find for Fehr and would he accept it?
"[The committee is] not just dealing with different candidates right now; they're also dealing with maybe some different structures, so that's why I think things have taken a little bit longer than what we were hoping for," Regehr said. "In dealing with those different scenarios, they've had to talk to the candidates about whether they're comfortable with those different scenarios. So I think that's a big reason we've had a little bit of a delay here."
Two of the other candidates believed to be in the mix are New York labor lawyer David Feher and Doug Allen, the former assistant executive director at the NFLPA. But there may be others as well.
Even though Fehr has long been reported to be in the mix, he would not officially name himself as a candidate for the NHLPA executive director's job when asked about it Wednesday.
"I'm officially a candidate? No, I'm officially not anything but an unpaid adviser to the search committee, and that's about all I can say about that," Fehr said.
He didn't want to say he was a candidate, but Regehr did.
"Don doesn't have a title to him whatsoever right now, but he is a candidate in the search," Regehr said. " I know that, in originally talking to Don, I think he wasn't even interested in the position, and for whatever reason he's changed his stance now."
Whether Fehr is the next NHLPA executive director or merely stays on as the next leader's adviser, it's clear he has the NHL players' backing.
"If you just look at Don's credentials, it's hard to not want somebody with his expertise be involved," said blueliner Steve Mondator, the alternate player rep for the Buffalo Sabres. "Having said that, the amount of time and expertise that he's giving to us already, we're extremely grateful for that as is. And if we were to leave tomorrow, we'd still be in debt for his contributions so far. It would be great to have him involved in some way, but we're not able to say anything along those lines, whether or not he will [stay on] beyond his current advisory position."
The executive board did vote in favor of the new constitution Wednesday. That is no small achievement since the new leader will want to know what he's walking into. Former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly was hampered by a constitution that crippled his power.
"We voted as an executive board on the new constitution," Regehr said. "There were some recommendations made to us by the constitutional committee, and as an executive board, we agreed to those. What's going to happen now is that it has to be passed along to the entire membership and it has to be ratified. We need two-thirds to agree and that way it gets ratified."
Fehr, meanwhile, also addressed the executive board. His message dealt mostly with collective bargaining and what to prepare for in general terms. The current CBA expires in two years.
"Two years is not tomorrow, but it's not all that long either, especially if part of the task is to have extensive communication with the general membership," Fehr said. "So you get ready. There is a simple rule about bargaining you hope for the best, you do what you can, treat the possibility of a work stoppage as a last resort and you prepare for the worst."
Tavares in townNew York Islanders star John Tavares took in his first NHLPA meeting. He tried to be like a sponge.
"Mostly for me, it was a lot of learning and trying to understand about the union and how I can get more involved," Tavares said. "Obviously, this is an important part of the game. It's important to be involved and not just worry about playing."
The agent for Simon Gagne said Tuesday that nothing seemed imminent as far as a trade for his client.
"The Flyers have given us permission to talk to teams and we've been doing that, and they've been talking to teams, but at this point there's not much else to say," veteran agent Bob Sauve told ESPN.com. "We'll keep talking and see if we can find a good place for Simon."
Gagne has one year left on a deal which pays him $5.25 million a season. More importantly, he has a no-trade clause, which allows him to help control his fate. His fate was sealed when the cap-challenged Flyers signed winger Nikolai Zherdev last Friday.
Via text message to ESPN.com, Gagne declined to comment until the matter was resolved.
And on the third day, Jonathan Toews tried to catch his breath.
The Chicago Blackhawks captain was almost at a loss for words as he described an emotional 48 hours in his native Winnipeg, where the Conn Smythe Trophy winner was feted Monday and Tuesday like few others before him in the city.
"It was unreal," Toews told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
A key to the city from the mayor; a lake named after him; thousands of fans showing up for his Stanley Cup parade; his charity golf tournament raising more money than he would have ever guessed; and, finally, his childhood hockey arena being renamed in his honor.
"That's something I never expected," said Toews. "That was really awesome and obviously a huge honor."
His charity golf tournament Monday raised more than $100,000 for the local children's rehab center, which helps kids with disabilities. That meant a lot to him. After visiting the center, he went to the local children's hospital with the Stanley Cup and had to fight back the lump in his throat.
"You don't do that every day and it was pretty shocking to see some of these kids and how sick they are and how much it meant to them that we went," Toews said. "They see the Cup and their eyes light up pretty good. Some of them are pretty tired and sick in bed, but they muster as much energy as they can to take a picture. It was really cool."
On Sunday, thousands lined up the streets for his Cup parade.
"That was amazing. I didn't think it was going to turn out that well," said Toews. "People just kept showing up. Some were there from 8 a.m. waiting."
The two magical days in his hometown were the final chapter to a 2009-10 season that featured an Olympic gold medal, being named top forward at the Vancouver Games, a Stanley Cup and NHL playoff MVP honors. "This was the cap to everything,'' he said.
Now comes reality: going back to a Chicago Blackhawks team missing several faces from the Cup-champion squad. And more moves may come after the team matched Niklas Hjalmarsson's offer sheet Monday.
"I spoke to Andrew Ladd yesterday for the first time since he was traded," Toews said. "I wanted to give him and all the boys [who were traded] some space. Obviously, they're dealing with a lot right now. But I guess, at the same time, we'll be looking to getting together as a team at the end of the month at the [July 30-Aug. 1 Blackhawks] convention in Chicago. We'll be missing some good friends and good teammates, but we knew that was going to happen. We're dealing with it the best we can."
Plenty of unrestricted free agents not named Ilya Kovalchuk are still out there. I took some time to check in with the agents for a number of them Tuesday:
"He's a very complete player," his agent, Joseph Tacopina, told ESPN.com. "He scored 15 goals last year, really in a defensive role. When it comes to taking draws and his defensive responsibility, he's among the best.
"This is a big year for him free-agent wise. He's got a young family. He wants to be compensated fairly. Some teams we've spoken to have asked us to wait for various reasons. Some are trying to create cap space. There are a lot of X-factors. We're going to take our time and make sure we put him in the right spot."
While Tacopina would not say, I still think Washington remains interested in bringing him back and Tampa Bay could be interested.
"Johnny is evaluating the possible situations so that he can pick the right spot moving forward," his agent, Bill Zito, told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Once Kovalchuk happens and [Tomas] Kaberle gets moved, now there's going to be more free-agent business. So, at this point, it's hurry up and wait."
"We do have some of the proverbial irons in the fire, and I believe there will be a deal consummated; but as you know given the summer schedule, I do not anticipate finalizing anything before the end of the month," said Carlos Sosa, Tucker's agent. "Choice of location and a chance to win are the key factors."
From all accounts, Tucker helped the young players in Colorado this past season.
"I'd say Darcy indeed was a good influence on the young guys last season," veteran Avs beat writer Adrian Dater of The Denver Post told ESPN.com. "Ryan O'Reilly lived with him all year, for instance, and he seemed to transition in his mind from being a 'star' to a guy who's at the end of the line and knows it and wants to be a good citizen to help others."
"A handful of teams have expressed interest, however no firm offers yet. He will be patient until we find the right fit for him," agent Stephen Reich said.
"He had a great season and a great playoff," agent Jarrett Bousquet told me. "Many teams have acknowledged that he made an impact. There's a lot of teams interested, but many of them want time to figure out what they're doing with Player X first and things like that. There are offers, but we think he deserves a raise. We'll see what happens."
"Talking with teams in Russia and the NHL on Pavol," said his agent, Matt Keator. "With the amount of interest, we hope to have something done soon."
"We are involved in discussions with several NHL teams on both Ruslan and Miro," Walsh told ESPN.com. "Teams appear to temporarily be in a holding pattern, but I expect the UFA market to become active again soon."
Satan played well for Boston last season, while Fedotenko has always shown to be a clutch player.
"There have been some discussions with a couple of teams to this point," agent Scott Lites told ESPN.com. "I believe he would be an outstanding fit on a contending team, especially in light of his prowess in the playoffs [42 career playoff goals, including 12 game winners, tied for 18th in NHL history] and as the most prolific shootout scorer in NHL history with 27 goals [on only 46 shots, a remarkable 58.7 percent success rate]. He is an extremely dedicated athlete, is in tremendous physical condition and wants to be part of an organization that is committed to winning a Stanley Cup in the 2010-11 season."
"We continue to stay in contact with the Devils," agent Jerry Buckley said. " They have expressed interest in trying to find a way to bring Mike back. Mike has an interest in returning as well but is exploring his options with other teams."
"It's been more active as of the beginning of this week," his agent, Richard Evans, told ESPN.com when asked about talks with teams. Personally, I think Svatos would be a great fit in Pittsburgh at a bargain price. He's a sniper, and either No. 87 or No. 71 could use him.
"We are still talking with teams as of today but haven't moved on anything at this time," agent Justin Duberman told us.
Now what for the Chicago Blackhawks?
The team announced Monday that it would match San Jose's four-year, $14 million offer sheet for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, a restricted free agent. That means someone else has to move for Chicago to meet its salary cap.
Sources told ESPN.com on Monday that one of the players the Hawks are dangling is Brian Campbell. Mind you, moving his hefty contract seems to be a long shot. He has six years left on his deal, which pays $7.14 million per season; plus, he has a no-trade clause that features his right to choose eight teams to which he will accept a trade. A source said Campbell had not yet been asked for his list of eight teams.
Our ESPN Chicago colleague Jesse Rogers is also reporting that Patrick Sharp could be another option. He's got two years left at $3.9 million, a much easier contract to move. But Sharp is also one heck of a player.
• The Teemu Selanne watch continues in Anaheim with a source telling ESPN.com on Monday that the veteran winger is scheduled to talk with Ducks GM Bob Murray sometime next week.
• If UFA winger Alexander Frolov doesn't land with an NHL team this week, don't be surprised if he ends up going to the KHL, where there's interest. He's only 28 years old and is a two-time 30-goal scorer. Sure, he only scored 19 goals last season amid a benching from the Kings, but those 19 goals were scored from a third-line role. If I was an NHL GM needing some offense, I'd be all over this guy.
• Hearing some teams are interested in UFA winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, but all of them first need to make cap room before making an offer.
Weber is entering the final season of a three-year contract that pays him $4.5 million annually, and the Preds hope it won't be his last in Music City.
So giving the star defenseman the "C" is a way for the franchise to give Weber their biggest possible endorsement.
"I don't think we can give any stronger message than that," Preds GM David Poile told ESPN.com. "And it's certainly our intention to sit down with his representatives, probably closer to training camp, and talk about the future. I think our relationship has been good and this was just the right thing to do for our organization."
Weber sounded truly touched when he spoke to ESPN.com after Thursday's announcement. When asked about the tie-in with a possible contract extension, the man with the NHL's hardest shot sounded enthusiastic about that, too.
"You know what, I'm definitely interested in that," Weber told ESPN.com. "I love it here in Nashville. The fans are great. It's a great organization. If David is willing to talk about that, then obviously when that time comes, there shouldn't be much of a problem."
After the Ilya Kovalchuk soap opera and its impact on the Atlanta Thrashers this past season, and Jay Bouwmeester and the Florida Panthers the season before, we've seen just how distracting it can be to have a star player's future in limbo during his last contract year.
The difference here is Weber would become a restricted free agent next summer, so it's not like he could walk away on July 1, 2011 (not unless there's an offer sheet). Still, the Preds are faced with their biggest contract negotiation in franchise history. Unless they do a one-year deal to bridge him to unrestricted free agency (which should only be a last resort if a long-term deal can't be reached), the goal for Poile is to get his new captain under contract for several years.
Weber is a special player for the Predators; naming him captain was a proud moment for the organization.
"It's one of those turning points in your franchise history," Poile said. "He's the fifth captain but the first who has been a Predators draft pick. He's been part of the culture that we've tried to create here. I know he has the respect of his teammates, of his opponents, of everybody in the organization and of our fans. So I know he's going to be a good leader."
Once Jason Arnott was traded last month, it was crystal clear to Poile who would replace him as captain.
"When I ran into people who asked me about the captaincy, I said to them, 'What would you do?' And everybody came back with the same player," Poile said. "This is going to be a very popular decision, both within our room and within our fan base."
Weber said it a huge honor.
"I've played with some great captains since I've been here in Nashville. It's exciting," he said. "And David is doing some good things for the team, making moves, like signing [Matthew] Lombardi. I'm really excited for next year."
There's some unfinished business. Weber still can't get rid of the sour taste left in his mouth from Nashville's first-round loss against Chicago. The Preds were 13.6 seconds away from taking Game 5 against the Blackhawks at the United Center and returning home with momentum and a chance to knock out the eventual Cup champions. That's before Patrick Kane scored a short-handed goal to tie the game, setting the stage for Marian Hossa's OT heroics.
"That's been the hardest part of the summer by far," Weber said. "It's one thing if we get swept. But a situation where you have a chance to go up 3-2 and go back home, it doesn't really go away. We really cost ourselves that series. Give them credit, they're a great team and they won the Stanley Cup. But I thought we could have had a better fate in that series."
Spoken like a born leader.
"There's so many young players that have been given this responsibility," Poile said. "It's a real interesting era that we're entering into now with, you know, whether it be Ovechkin or Crosby, Toews, Nash, Weber, Dustin Brown, players at a young age being the captain and the leaders of their team."
All those other young captains Poile mentioned are signed to long-term deals. They're not going anywhere. Will Weber follow suit? That's the plan, anyway.
At noon ET on Thursday, Ilya Kovalchuk's free-agent odyssey officially hit the seven-day mark.
Arguably the most valuable unrestricted free agent in NHL history -- especially when you account for age and talent (for years, the UFA minimum age was 32 and then 31) -- continues to remain unsigned as the second weekend of the open market approaches.
The first red flag came in February when he turned down a pair of monster offers from the Atlanta Thrashers: $100 million over 12 years and $70 million over seven years. Kovalchuk and his agent Jay Grossman gambled that there would be a handful of teams willing to pay close to $10 million per season come July 1.
But several GMs, governors and agents told ESPN.com over the past few months that they didn't believe that any team would be willing to pay Kovalchuk $10 million a year. You can't pay anyone that amount of money and still expect to ice a competitive team around him under the salary cap. That's a popular sentiment around the league.
But perhaps more intriguing is this rumor making the circles among owners and team executives -- the league will fight for a lower salary cap (by changing the way the percentages are calculated in order to get a lower cap) in the next collective bargaining agreement two years from now (the players will likely be led into the next labor talks by the battled-tested Donald Fehr and will certainly have a say in that).
Whether the lower cap comes to fruition, the potential for it has clearly affected the way some teams are already thinking, including the Los Angeles Kings, the team with which Kovalchuk wants to sign.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi, who once again broke off talks with the Kovalchuk camp on Wednesday, is adamant that he needs a cap-friendly deal if he's going to take on Kovalchuk. He needs to be able to sign Drew Doughty and Wayne Simmonds and other youngsters over the next year or so, and he is also concerned about the next CBA and its impact. If the cap goes down by $10 million or so in the next CBA, how will teams handle their big salaries?
More to the point, I really do believe the Kings have watched, somewhat in horror, at how a wonderfully talented Chicago Blackhawks team has been dismantled this summer just weeks after winning the Stanley Cup. It's a situation the young-and-rising Kings want to avoid.
So, if Kovalchuk ever comes back to the Kings' table for a third time, he'll need to adjust his demands.
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 pull a Marian Hossa, a la Detroit in 2008-09. But a long-term deal is much more preferable since it would cover off part of the next CBA. You don't want to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012 if a CBA hasn't been ironed out yet. Remember how quiet July 2004 was?
A long-term deal is what Kovalchuk really wants. But where? If the Kings remain out, the New Jersey Devils are the likeliest destination, although Devils GM Lou Lamoriello will spend the rest of the summer trying to move bodies if he signs Kovalchuk.
Then, there's the KHL. Evgeni Nabokov signed with SKA St. Petersburg on Wednesday, so if Kovalchuk were to also go there, 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."
Secretary to General director
In the end, everyone I've talked to around the league believes Kovalchuk really wants to be a Los Angeles King. This is where it will get interesting with Grossman and his client. Grossman has made a lot of money for his clients over the years, most notably Nikolai Khabibulin and most recently Anton Volchenkov. The dude knows how to get big contracts. But he's in a jam here. His client wants to play in L.A., and the Kings will not budge from their cap-friendly contract demands.
How will this all play out? Don't know, but can't wait to read the book one day.
Elsewhere on Thursday:
• The Philadelphia Flyers still hadn't announced the signing of Russian winger Nikolai Zherdev. The holdup, according to a source, is that the paperwork was still being finalized on both sides of the ocean and his official player transfer from the KHL to the NHL is in the process of being approved. Once it is, and it may not come until Friday, the Flyers will announce a one-year deal with Zherdev, who was an unrestricted free agent after his one-year deal with Atlant expired. He had 13 goals and 26 assists with Atlant this past season.
My colleague Darren Dreger of TSN tweeted Thursday that the Zherdev signing was being delayed until the Flyers could move Simon Gagne. Certainly plausible.
• Sticking with the Flyers/Gagne situation, he raised eyebrows Thursday when he told media in his native Quebec that contrary to reports out of Philadelphia last week, he has not agreed to waive his no-trade clause.
"I have a no-trade clause and I haven't removed it," Gagne said in French on RDS (the French sister network of TSN). "But certainly the Flyers have cap issues and I'm a player with one year left on my deal ... The next few days will maybe help us find out what's going to happen in my case."
It might just be semantics here. Once the Flyers go to Gagne with a trade, and it's a team he is OK with, he'll surely waive it. The Kings might have some interest if they determine once and for all they're not signing Kovalchuk. Gagne has one year left on his deal at $5.25 million.
OK, the Ilya Kovalchuk story just keeps getting stranger and stranger.
I woke up Wednesday morning to find an e-mail from a source saying the Los Angeles Kings were again talking to the unrestricted free-agent winger.
This is the same Kings front office that said it had washed its hands of the Russian star after he rejected their offer Sunday. And Los Angeles really, really wanted Kovalchuk, but not at a price that would prevent the Kings from building a Stanley Cup contender around him. In other words, anything north of $8 million per year would have been too much.
Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, did get back to me via e-mail, but said he would not comment on the talks.
If Kovalchuk does end up a King, GM Dean Lombardi wins the GM of the Year Award for next season. He played hardball with the prized winger, publicly walked away, privately said he was done with him and then (it would appear) had the player come back to him.
Strong poker play, if that's how it turns out.
UPDATE: Nabokov to KHLWhile Kovalchuk talked contract with the Kings, a Russian Olympic teammate bolted to the KHL.
Evgeni Nabokov confirmed to ESPN.com on Wednesday he signed a four-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg. He said playing in his native Russia and for a league that's trying to make a name for itself is an exciting proposition.
"For sure," Nabokov said. "But I also have to realize that I haven't played there for a long time and it's going to be a challenge for me, that's for sure."
Once the start of free agency on July 1 came and went and most of the starting goalie jobs were taken, Nabokov had to broaden his options and think seriously about the KHL.
"There wasn't much going on [in the NHL]," Nabokov told ESPN.com. "We had a couple of [NHL] teams interested, I guess ... but I had to make my decision pretty quick."
Nabokov earned $6 million this year in San Jose. While he refused to discuss financial details of the new deal, Russian media reports pegged the total contract at around $24 million.
Clearly, the money was greater in Russia than in the NHL, where the Philadelphia Flyers couldn't offer him nearly that much even though they had interest in him. The key in all this, however, was getting his family on board. Life in San Jose has been good.
"I would not make a decision like this without my family supporting me," Nabokov said. "They supported me 100 percent. That's probably the biggest reason I'm going there, because my family supported it."
Elsewhere on Wednesday:
The Leafs still want to add another top-six forward on top of Versteeg and continue to dangle defenseman Tomas Kaberle in trade talks.
"We continue to listen on Kaberle and to explore other trade opportunities," Leafs GM Brian Burke told ESPN.com via e-mail Wednesday.
Burke added that if they don't get the top-six forward they want in exchange for Kaberle, they will keep him.
• A lot of readers have been asking about Paul Kariya. Although he is working out every day, the 35-year-old forward is trying to figure out whether he wants to continue playing. If he does decide to return, he's in no hurry to sign. He's happy to let the dust settle on free agency and find a good fit later in the summer.
• There have been conversations between the Montreal Canadiens and the Carey Price camp, but still nothing serious in terms of progress. There's no real time constraint here for the restricted free agent. It'll get done.
• The Buffalo Sabres have brought in veteran center Rob Niedermayer. The 35-year-old, who was UFA, is a solid third-line center. It's believed that Pittsburgh and Edmonton were also after Niedermayer, but he chose the Sabres in the end.
Bill Guerin was almost out the door and headed for a run when ESPN.com caught up with him Tuesday morning.
There is no question about it: The 39-year-old winger wants to play another season.
"Oh, yeah. I had my workout this morning, and now I'm going for a run," Guerin told ESPN.com. "I'm absolutely going to keep myself in the best shape I can. The older you get, the harder you have to work."
But where will he play next season?
"We've had minimal discussions with Pittsburgh and a few other teams, but nothing too concrete right now," said Guerin, an unrestricted free agent. "I haven't seen a lot of signings in the last couple of days. I think it's a slow market; teams are moving cautiously right now with the salary cap in mind. I'm just trying to be patient and we'll see what happens."
There has been dialogue with Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero since the market opened July 1. "We've talked, but nothing serious," Guerin said.
Yes, Guerin will turn 40 in November. But the old goat keeps producing. He's coming off back-to-back 21-goal seasons and has scored 20-plus goals in four straight seasons. And that's on top of what he does off the ice and in the dressing room. He oozes character and played an important part in the Penguins' Cup championship in June 2009. In a perfect world, Pittsburgh is where he'd like to stay.
"I love Pittsburgh, I love playing there," Guerin said. "I've expressed that to Ray, and he knows that. But he's got a business to run, and I understand that. I've been around this business a long time. I'm not getting too emotional. It's a new world with the salary cap and you have to tell yourself to be patient no matter how hard it gets."
The Pens have not ruled Guerin out. It is believed the team is thinking about moving either Jordan Staal or Evgeni Malkin to wing, after which the decision will be whether to add a third-line center and try to re-sign Guerin or open a spot at wing for some of Pittsburgh's younger wingers. That deliberation continues.
Elsewhere on Tuesday:
• Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was in good spirits Tuesday morning but remained tight-lipped on the Ilya Kovalchuk situation. "Everything is status quo; that's all I'm going to say," the veteran hockey man told ESPN.com at about 9:40 a.m. ET.
• Twitter readers keep asking about Anaheim restricted free agent Bobby Ryan. The latest is not much -- contract talks were still at a standstill as of Tuesday morning. The Ducks' last two offers -- five years, $25 million and four years, $18.4 million ($4.6 million average) -- were as far as the Anaheim front office says it will go. The Ducks say they're ready to sit back and see whether there's an offer sheet from another team, in which case they can match or take the compensation. Stay tuned on this one.
• It's hard to believe Maxim Afinogenov remains unsigned. He's the second-highest point producer on the UFA market behind only Kovalchuk, and he has one of the best agents in heavyweight Don Meehan of Newport Sports. Afinogenov, 30, had 24 goals and 61 points this past season with Atlanta. He can help a team.
• John Madden also remains on the UFA market. ESPN.com was told Tuesday that the 37-year-old center will take his time and wait to see where there's a good fit. He's not going to rush into any decision.
When you're having this much fun, why not drag it out another day, right?
"Ilya Kovalchuk choices have been narrowed down, details to be finalized but no announcement tonight," Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, announced via Twitter on Monday night.
The update came after the agent tweeted Monday morning that this was the day Kovalchuk would make his decision.
Several calls by ESPN.com to Grossman, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and Islanders GM Garth Snow were not returned Monday. KHL president Alexander Medvedev, via a spokesman, declined to comment, as well.
Earlier Monday, the New York Post had the hockey world buzzing by reporting the Devils were on the verge of signing Kovalchuk to a six-year, $60 million deal. Newsday also reported late Monday night that the Islanders were out of the running. The Post report might have jumped the gun a little bit, but the Devils appear to the favorite -- and the only NHL team still in the hunt unless a mystery club emerges. It is possible the Devils need more time to clear out some cap space to make room for Kovalchuk.
One team that is definitely out of the Kovalchuk sweepstakes is the Los Angeles Kings. They pulled out of the race Sunday, and a source said Monday night that under no circumstance would they get back into the race for the free-agent forward at this point. They have "completely moved on," the source said.
The pressure on Lamoriello to win now is immense. The window for 38-year-old goaltender Martin Brodeur to win another championship is closing. Both are reasons you saw the Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder signings last week.
When told of the Post story earlier Monday, Brodeur told ESPN.com via text message that he was excited if it was indeed true. We'll find out Tuesday.
Elsewhere late Monday:
• What now for the Kings? ESPN.com received mixed signals on the Simon Gagne front Monday. One source said the Kings were no longer in pursuit of the Philadelphia Flyers winger, but another said Monday that the Kings were still interested. Gagne has one year left on his deal at $5.25 million.
• The NHL Players' Association released the names of the 31 players who filed for arbitration Monday. Here's the list: