Trading Gagne may be a must

The Flyers appear to be amid a salary-cap squeeze that can only be solved by trading Simon Gagne.

According to various reports in Russia and Canada, the Flyers are close to an agreement with free agent right wing Nikolai Zherdev but need to shed Gagne’s $5.25 million salary to clear room for the talented Ukrainian.

Meanwhile, Gagne told French-speaking television station RDS that he has not yet waived his no-trade clause.

Leafs add Lebda to blue-line

The Maple Leafs have picked up Red Wings’ free agent depth defenceman Brett Lebda, further evidence that a Tomas Kaberle deal is around the corner.The 28-year-old Lebda signed for two years, at a reported $1.45 million US a season. General manager Brian Burke told the Toronto Sun a few days ago he was pursuing one more veteran defenceman that would allow him to concentrate on getting a quality forward for Kaberle during the latter’s trade window, which closes Aug. 15.

Big contract lures Nabokov to KHL

Free agent goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is off the market and off to Russia for the next four years.

Nabokov signed a four-year, worth US$6-million contract with SKA Saint Petersburg, Sportsnet’s John Shannon confirmed Wednesday.

Nabokov, 34, became a free agent after San Jose decided not to re-sign the 10-year veteran.

The Russian goaltender posted a 44-26 record with a 2.43 goals against average last season, helping the Sharks reach the Western Conference final this year, where they were swept by Chicago.

Devils must clear cap space to sign Kovalchuk

The Ilya Kovalchuk watch is becoming a saga, not surprising given his status as arguably the best-ever unrestricted free agent.

Still believed to have the inside track to sign the left wing, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello yesterday repeated his “status quo” mantra regarding his consistent desire to sign Kovalchuk, then added, “Nothing has changed today, yesterday or the day before.”

Interest in Gagne expected to pick up

The Flyers’ attempts to clear space under the salary cap by trading veteran left wing Simon Gagne appear to be indirectly related to the New Jersey Devils’ attempt to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk.

The Devils reportedly are close to signing Kovalchuk to a seven-year, $60 million extension. Once that deal is finalized, other NHL teams in the running for Kovalchuk — namely, the Los Angeles Kings and New York Islanders — will need to look in another direction to add offense.