NEW YORK — Ilya Kovalchuk is an unrestricted free agent for the second time this summer.

Independent arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled in favour of the NHL’s rejection of Kovalchuk’s 17-year, US$102-million contract with the New Jersey Devils.

The NHL team released a statement Monday night saying it respects Bloch’s ruling and indicated that it still hopes to land the talented Russian.

What’s next for Antti Niemi?

The Chicago Blackhawks have shed the salaries of many of their playoff heroes this summer. But when they walked away from goaltender Antti Niemi’s arbitration award, it set up a baffling scenario.

Yes, the 26-year-old starting goalie for the Stanley Cup-winning team is an unrestricted free agent. Sure, he didn’t play that well in the final against the Philadelphia Flyers, but his steady performances in the three rounds prior and the second half of the regular season make him an extremely

Willie Mitchell update

Willie Mitchell update: I hear he’s gotten a clean bill of health and has begun taking physicals for a few teams. I think he’ll sign soon. The former Wild defenseman, I’m told, actually could sign a contract with performance bonuses because he spent 100 days on injured reserve last year — including the playoffs. The CBA doesn’t spell out whether the 100 days is only during the regular season, so it appears after inquiries from Mitchell and the player interested teams, the league will allow this type of contract. I bet it’ll be for a base of $1 or $1.5 million on a one-year deal plus bonuses.

Veterans iced out as cap, cash concerns chill free agent market

Free agents Kim Johnsson, Willie Mitchell and Mike Mottau were all 20-minute NHL defensemen last season, and none has a new contract for next season. Paul Kariya also hasn’t found work, nor have Bill Guerin and Lee Stempniak, who had 21 and 28 goals, respectively, last season.

The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Monday parted ways with No. 1 goalie Antti Niemi because they considered his arbitration award too steep.

Chicago Blackhawks' loss of Antti Niemi could be San Jose Sharks' gain

Think they’ve about run out of cardboard boxes and packaging tape in the Chicago Blackhawks’ dressing room? In the nine weeks since they hoisted the Stanley Cup, eight players have packed up and moved on as part of the team’s salary-cap-induced bloodletting.

Sharks-killing forward Dustin Byfuglien: Gone. Twenty-goal scorer Kris Versteeg: Gone. Energetic forechecker Colin Fraser: Gone.