Kovalchuk interested in Leafs; Burke says nyet

NHL free agency opens exactly 15 days from today, and as you’ve no doubt heard already, Ilya Kovalchuk is, if not the prize, then certainly one of the top two along with Patrick Marleau .

Yesterday, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun had a quote from Leafs GM Brian Burke basically squashing any speculation his team would be in the mix for Kovalchuk , saying simply: “We’re not going to be involved in that race.”

So there goes one top-six forward candidate.

DREGER: OILERS LISTENING TO ALL OFFERS ON FIRST OVERALL PICK

Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini says teams continue to call, inquiring about what it might take to convince Edmonton to trade the first overall pick in next week’s NHL Entry Draft.

Tambellini’s response remains the same; he says he’s not sure what it would take to move such a valuable asset, but he’s willing to listen and consider all offers.

Change is imminent in Florida, as Dale Tallon prepares to rebuild the Panthers and won’t be afraid to tear about his existing roster.

Kessel wants to score 40 goals next year – Can he?

On a team historically bereft of big-time scorers, Phil Kessel believes he can achieve what only one Maple Leaf has been able to do in the last 15 seasons.

That’s topping the 40-goal mark.

“I think I can score 40. I could have had it last year if I’d have scored (consistently). I had a lot of chances, plus I missed quite a bit of games,” said the 22-year-old winger as he passed through town for the unveiling of Dion Phaneuf as Toronto’s captain and Tuesday’s opening of Real Sports Bar and Grill, MLSE’s playpen beside the Air Canada Centre.

Price to the Flyers for Giroux … not going to happen

If Montreal were to trade goalie Carey Price to the Flyers, it would want Giroux , sources said. That makes a deal with the Canadiens virtually impossible. . . .

These NHL GMs may heat up summer months

Last week, Glen Sather told Larry Brooks of The New York Post that the Rangers were not going to be a major player in free agency. I was relaying this news to a former player, who responded, “And you believe him?”

Upon further review, however, you can see how this might be the most boring free agency summer since the lockout.

There aren’t many difference-makers available, and there aren’t many big spending teams with cap room. Several other organizations (Carolina, for example) want to take their payrolls down to $44 million US.

So, if you’re a general manager looking to improve his team, you’re doing one of two things: hunting around the bargain bin or looking to make a trade. And, there are a lot of players available. Teams willing to take on a little extra salary will be in a position of power. They’ll be able to extract draft picks, prospects, maybe even good players that cap-strapped teams (Chicago) really don’t want to dump.