Free agency talk heats up at draft weekend

The focus of the hockey world was in Los Angeles this weekend, and it may yet again come on Thursday when the NHL’s free-agent market opens.

Sources confirmed to yet again on Saturday that the Kings will make an offer to the prized jewel of a thin market, star winger Ilya Kovalchuk. They tried to acquire his rights this weekend from New Jersey, but were denied since the Devils remain interested in trying to re-sign the Russian star.

On the back end, Los Angeles also has eyes on a top-four defenseman, and if Dan Hamhuis doesn’t sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Kings will take a look at him. The Kings also like Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle, but don’t have a fit with Toronto because the Leafs want a top-six forward in return (there were rumblings of Toronto being interested in Stars center Mike Ribeiro). That doesn’t make sense for a Kings team looking to add a top-six forward, not get rid of one.

Either way, expect the Kings to be in the thick of things come Thursday as the team attempts to add the final pieces to a rising Western Conference powerhouse.

Martin and Kaberle talks

While the Devils continue to talk to Kovalchuk’s camp, the same holds true with top defenseman Paul Martin, an unrestricted free agent who is looking more and more headed for the market.

“We’ll do everything we possibly can,” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told on Saturday when asked about Martin.

If he loses Martin, he’ll need to replace him. Just a thought, but Sergei Gonchar could be an attractive possibility. So would Kaberle. The latter remained on the Maple Leafs as the draft came and went since Toronto didn’t receive the kind of offers it wanted. But there is still plenty of time.

“It may come to [moving him] after July 1, but we’ll continue to listen between now and then,” Leafs GM Brian Burke told before exiting the Staples Center.

In some ways, it might make more sense to wait until after the market opens. Once Martin, Hamhuis, Gonchar, Anton Volchenkov and Zbynek Michalek all sign contracts, there will be teams that struck out on those guys and need to fill a top-four hole.

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