Which players are left after Day 1

July, 1, 2010

Everyone still breathing? Good, because there's still plenty more free-agent action coming.

Still available is the gem of the entire 2010 class, Ilya Kovalchuk. The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings, as advertised, were charging hard, but there was still no deal as 7 p.m. ET approached Thursday.

Reached at his office around 6 p.m. ET, Kings GM Dean Lombardi said "No," when asked by ESPN.com if he was closing in on Kovalchuk. Asked if he believed the Kings were still in it, he responded, "Not sure."

Oh, he's in all right, but clearly the Kings were frustrated when the negotiating wasn't going swimmingly. The Kings want Kovalchuk, but they don't want to break their financial structure and make it impossible to fill out a Cup contender.

The Devils? Give GM Lou Lamoriello credit; he's never given up. "We're still in it," Lamoriello said when asked about Kovalchuk by ESPN.com late Thursday afternoon.

Unless there's a mystery NHL team (and that could be the case), the third option is the KHL, which has aggressively pursued Kovalchuk. But I think the NHL is where the Russian star will stay.

The goalies

Speaking of Russia, that's a possible destination for star goalie Evgeni Nabokov after the small number of starting goalie jobs came and went Thursday and he was left standing alongside the other big UFA goalie, Marty Turco.

"He's a great goalie, an elite goalie," Nabokov's agent, veteran Don Meehan of Newport Sports, told ESPN.com around 6:45 p.m. ET. "It's just a matter of positions that are available; the positions are scarce. It's not that he doesn't have any options. He's got outstanding options in Russia."

The KHL is willing and waiting with big-money offers. So what now?

"I think we'll wait a number of days and then look at all his options," Meehan said.

The Flyers went after him last weekend at the draft, but are now loaded on the salary cap. Still, if they can unload a contract over the next few days (Simon Gagne?), perhaps they circle back to Nabokov? The Flyers also went after Turco last week. He remained unsigned, but also remained very much unfazed when reached Thursday via text message, which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows him.

Jose Theodore would be the third-most recognizable goalie still on the UFA market. The Tampa Bay Lightning spoke to his camp Thursday before ultimately getting Dan Ellis real cheap at $1.5 million per year over two seasons.

Antero Niittymaki won the day with his $4 million, two-year deal in San Jose. Nothing like joining an instant Cup contender.

Up front

There are a number of forwards still available, although Matt Cullen's signing in Minnesota for $10.5 million over three years Thursday might help loosen up the market, specifically for Matthew Lombardi, arguably the top center left.

Lombardi likely won't be returning to Phoenix, where the two sides weren't able to close the gap (the Coyotes were apparently never going above $3 million per year). Coyotes GM Don Maloney fired back on a media conference call Thursday, saying Lombardi's contract demands were off the chart. Still, several clubs were calling Thursday, and Lombardi won't be out there long.

Meanwhile, one of the top wingers, Alexander Frolov, remains unsigned. The New York Rangers kicked the tires on him Thursday, but don't appear to have the cap room to make it work, especially after re-signing Vaclav Prospal to a one-year deal worth $1 million plus bonuses.


Pavel Kubina, Andy Sutton, Joe Corvo and Marc-Andre Bergeron are the most notable names still left. But the biggest name that now moves to the forefront after the bigger UFA blueliners have gone is Tomas Kaberle. The Toronto Maple Leafs are now in excellent position to shop him since a number of clubs, namely the Los Angeles Kings, struck out on the big names. Stay tuned.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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