The Ilya Kovalchuk Problem: Should LA Kings Pursue Prized Free Agent?

Any sports fan would want his or her team to acquire a player considered to be among the best in the league. That is a given.

The only means of acquisition are through the entry draft, a trade with another franchise, or free agency.

The obvious preference for acquisition is the entry draft, because the initial costs to the team for doing so are zero.

Sure, the argument could be made that team scouts are paid to make informed decisions on who to draft, and thus are the costs of the draft picks. The entertainment business would classify this as a below-the-line cost, in that no "talent" or important assets are deducted.

This is the opposite of acquisition through trade, in which some sort of asset(s) would be directly swapped for said player. These assets could be a rostered player, a prospect, a draft pick, or in some cases, cold hard cash. In most cases trades end up with pretty equal results for both teams. But in some cases (especially if Roberto Luongo is involved), the results are disastrously one-sided.

Free agency seems simple: Offer desired player a contract, and if he accepts, everyone is happy. But in the salary cap era of the NHL, these contracts are more highly scrutinized, publicized, and shape the future of the franchise more than ever before.

Even in the wake of the Blackhawks' impressive Cup victory, concerns are on the horizon for the future of the team due to large contracts committed to a number of players. The decision to sign Marian Hossa to a 12-year, $62 million contract was the correct one for the 2009-2010 season, but it could cause complications for the years to come.

According to a statement by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the salary cap situation, which was previously expected to decrease, will remain pretty static, or as he puts it, "I think we're going to be flat or maybe up a tad."

The 2009-2010 salary cap was $56.8...

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