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Kovalchuk and Kings inching closer, but there's no deal yet

July 16, 2010 |  9:14 pm

Another day, another flurry of Ilya Kovalchuk rumors.

Friday’s spiciest speculation had him agreeing to a contract with the Kings -- which turned out to be false — while other reports said he’s close to an agreement, which seems far more likely.

One source familiar with the discussions said he’s 98% sure it will get done and that Kovalchuk will be a King. But in a process as bizarre as this one has been at every step, and with neither Kovalchuk’s agent nor  Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi  willing to comment, that 2% is too much wiggle room.

Among the issues they’re believed to be working on: payment for the 2012-13 season, a season that could be lost to a lockout, and whether the deal will include a no-trade or no-movement clause. And if there is a clause that allows him to veto a trade or specify a number of teams he’d agree to join in a trade, the two sides will have to agree on when it would kick in.

The 2012-13 issue is a real concern to players and teams. If there’s no season, players wouldn’t get paid — but any pre-agreed signing bonuses would have to be paid. Teams don’t want to pay anything if there’s no season, but players want bonuses — or, in a worst-case scenario, to lose as little salary as possible.

The seven-year extension the Minnesota Wild gave center Mikko Koivu  will take effect in the 2011-12 season and is structured to help both sides in the event of a canceled season. He will earn $7.29 million in salary and a $1.89-million installment of his signing bonus in 2011-12 but in 2012-13 he’s scheduled to earn only $5.40 million and get no bonus. He goes back to earning $7.29 million and a $1.89-million bonus payment in 2013-14, and there’s a double bonus payment of $3.780 million in the final season, 2017-18, along with a salary of $9.180 million.

The total value of Koivu’s deal is $47.25 million over seven seasons, a cap hit of $6.75 million per season. That's almost certainly higher than the Kings’ cap hit will be for Kovalchuk, a two-time 50-goal scorer, an oddity given that Koivu -- who was the sixth pick in the 2001 draft, five spots after Kovalchuk -- has never scored more than 22 goals or 71 points in a season. Michael Russo, who covers the Wild for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, makes the casethat Koivu’s value goes beyond pure statistics because he's a two-way player and a franchise cornerstone, and it makes for some interesting reading.

Koivu also got a no-trade clause, which Kovalchuk is likely to want.

And so we wait, and wait . . .

--Helene Elliott