Atlanta Thrashers' Ilya Kovalchuk is in high demand

At least four teams, including the Los Angeles Kings, are in contention for the high-scoring left wing who reportedly wants upward of $10 million a year for 10 years.

The Kings are a prime contender to acquire high-scoring left wing Ilya Kovalchuk from Atlanta, but they’re competing with Vancouver, Boston and another Eastern team for the two-time 50-goal scorer, according to hockey sources who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

The Bruins could offer one of the first-round draft picks they got from Toronto for Phil Kessel, while the Canucks and Kings have youngsters whose salaries would suit the cash-pinched Thrashers. The Kings’ depth on defense gives them bargaining chips, though they’re unlikely to part with core defensemen Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty, Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi. They also have tradable assets in goal behind Jonathan Quick, in Jonathan Bernier and Jeff Zatkoff.

Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi wouldn’t discuss Kovalchuk, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1. Lombardi said Wednesday in Columbus, however, he is exploring ways to upgrade his roster and trading for a “rental” player is a possibility.

“I think I can safely say we are actively trying to improve this team. For the first time as a general manager you kind of get excited,” Lombardi said.

Lombardi also said while he has enough salary cap space to afford a superstar, his team might benefit more if he adds two mid-level players instead of one marquee player.

“Seven million dollars goes fast,” he said. “We’re sitting 25th in the league in cash and cap space, but you look at one big dog and boy, it’s gone.”,0,5658878.story

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