The Kings won't sign high-scoring free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk, according...

The Kings won't sign high-scoring free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk, according to GM , increasing the odds that he could become an Islander. (Apr. 10, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

The Islanders could step up their pursuit of free agent Ilya Kovalchuk after it was announced last night that the Kings, thought to be Kovalchuk's preferred destination, have dropped out of the running.

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi told the Los Angeles Times that his team had decided to pass on Kovalchuk after a few days of negotiations.

"We took our best shot to meet his needs and the team's," Lombardi wrote in an e-mail to the Times.

The Kings reportedly had offered Kovalchuk a long-term deal in the range of $7 million to $8 million per season, less than the 10-year, $100-million deal Kovalchuk reportedly has been seeking. So Kovalchuk still can be a King if he wants to take less money.

Islanders GM Garth Snow, who confirmed that he contacted Jay Grossman, Kovalchuk's agent, on Friday, did not return a call seeking comment last night. Grossman declined to comment in an e-mail to Newsday.

The Devils were the only other team as of last night to make an offer to Kovalchuk, who was traded to the Devils from the Thrashers on Feb. 4 after spending his first seven-plus seasons in Atlanta.

Kovalchuk turned down contract offers of $70 million for seven years and $101 million for 12 years from Atlanta before he was traded.

He has scored at least 41 goals in each of the last six seasons, but Kovalchuk has played in only nine playoff games, with one win.

The Islanders currently are more than $27 million under the 2010-11 salary cap of $59.4 million, and $11 million under the salary-cap floor of $43.4 million. They also are paying for two long-term contracts: Alexei Yashin's 10-year, $90-million deal, signed in 2001, and Rick DiPietro's 15-year, $67.5-million deal, signed in 2006.

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