With a tentative agreement in place, players who were playing overseas are boarding planes and heading back to North America. Some are taking their time and will be leaving in a few days, getting in one last game or spending some extra times with their families.
Almost all European leagues can’t afford to pay the players the same as the what the NHL can offer. The KHL is basically the only exception to this. The NHL and KHL have an agreement where they are to honor all contracts. This may be getting tested already.
Yesterday afternoon Lubomir Visnovsky said that he will remain with HC Slovan Bratislava in the KHL and won’t be heading to New York to play with the Islanders. Can read our story from yesterday regarding Visnovsky here.
NHL says it’s been assured KHL won’t let players with valid NHL deals play in KHL. Guess that “assurance” will be put to test. #visnovsky
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 7, 2013
Then there was this:
Just a low rumble for now, but there are whispers KHL teams may be offering “inducements” to get RUS stars to stay and not return to NHL. — Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 7, 2013
This brings us to this morning where the rumors are flying around that New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk is considering remaining with SKA of the KHL.
I’ve heard Kovalchuk rumors (staying in RUS?) but not able to confirm. NJD told me they “haven’t heard (Kovy) isn’t coming back.” — Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 8, 2013
Bill Daly commented on the Kovalchuk situation:
Bill Daly remains confident Kovy and KHL will honor deals. “We have no reason to believe the KHL will let them play”. More Daly… — Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 8, 2013
Continued Daly on Kovy and KHL…”It would be inconsistent with our agreement with them.” — Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 8, 2013
Slava Malamud posted a Kovalchuk comment.
Kovalchuk says, ‘I will need to read the new agreement’ before he decides what to do next. So there… #NJDevils
— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) January 8, 2013
It’s likely that Kovalchuk will end up leaving SKA and returning to the Devils, but in the meantime, it is a story that is worth following. Many thought that if some Russian players would remain in the KHL, that it would be ‘non-star’ players and not the big names.