Devils signing Ilya Kovalchuk means market for Simon Gagne perhaps gets more crowded
The announcement the Devils signed left wing Ilya Kovalchuk should loosen up the free agent market a little bit, but it also will make the pursuit of Flyers left wing Simon Gagne more interesting and perhaps more difficult for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Had the Kings wrapped up Kovalchuk, as most expected, it would have taken one team out of the equation that was searching for a high-end scoring wing. But rumors the Kings were interested in Gagne began in early July, much earlier that the talk that Tampa Bay had interest.
The Lightning certainly has the cap space to take on Gagne's $5.25 million contract. Assuming players such as Adam Hall, Niklas Persson and Johan Harju make the team, the Lightning has about $14 million in cap space with which to play. GM Steve Yzerman also likes that Gagne has only one year left on his contract. That means Tampa Bay won't get locked into anything as Yzerman determines the direction he wants to take the team in the future, and it is a hedge against Gagne's well-documented injury issues.
Tampa Bay also has good depth at defense (eight players on one-way deals) and, organizationally, in net. It also has prospects it could dangle (Dana Tyrell, Ty Wishart?) as well as draft choices. The Lightning also has this: an opportunity for Gagne to play on a line with center Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. How good would that look for a player in the final year of a contract looking to put up numbers.
The Kings, as a playoff team, are further along in their development. And the Kings brass has ties to the Flyers. Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi, assistant GM Ron Hextall and coach Terry Murray all have spent time with Philadelphia, so there is some respect there. The Kings also have some depth with which to trade.
With the Flyers looking to shed salary to get under the cap, draft picks and prospects would be their most attractive return.