NHL Lockout, Day 2: Locked-Out Players Look To Europe, KHL; AHL To See Windfall
Media reports from Russia began coming out as early as 2:00am ET yesterday, just two hours after the start of the NHL lockout, about the Kontinental Hockey League announcing the "additions of NHL players” including Penguins C Evgeni Malkin and Devils RW Ilya Kovalchuk, according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. Those departures amid an NHL lockout are “likely just the beginning.” During the last lockout, more than “380 players found homes overseas for at least part of the 2004-05 season” (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 9/16). In DC, Stephen Whyno reported Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin is “expected to sign" a deal with the KHL that would "allow him to return to the NHL once a new CBA is reached, similar to those agreed to” by Malkin and Kovalchuk. Ovechkin earlier this month said, “Of course I think about it because my hometown have teams and my Russian Federation have a league. Of course I’m probably going to be there. But I don’t want to be there; I want to be here” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/16). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Allen Maki writes the KHL is “about to enjoy its moment of good fortune,” as its “hockey-playing comrades are heading home." Maki: “It is open season for a league and a nation that treats its hockey with Canadian-like reverence -- and the timing is just as splendid” (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/17).
EUROPE REALITY: In Chicago, Adam Jahns noted the option players have “of playing in other leagues -- particularly in Europe -- has been the most publicized reality of the lockout.” Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews confirmed at the NHLPA meetings that “he’d consider playing in Europe, and other Hawks will, as well.” The longer the lockout goes, the “more likely more players will go.” If players do opt to join another team, they “have to insure their contracts in case of injury.” If injured, their NHL teams “can suspend them when they return without pay until they’re healthy” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/16). Penguins C Sidney Crosby acknowledged that playing in Europe “remains a possibility but said rumors that he already has spoken with a Swedish team are untrue” (TRIBLIVE.com, 9/15). In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli notes thus far “just one North American-born player -- San Jose's Jason Demers -- has decided to take the plunge in Europe.” Most players, even those “born and trained in Europe, have decided to take the temperature of these negotiations to gauge how long a lockout might last” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/17). Seravalli in a separate piece wrote getting hurt, even “in the more docile European leagues, is a very real possibility” for players. That is why “one of the main topics” at last week's NHLPA meeting was “the importance of insuring players' current NHL contracts before heading overseas” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/16).
EFFECT ON THE AHL: The CP’s Bill Beacon noted the AHL “could be in for a banner year" due to the lockout. AHL President Dave Andrews “knows it would mean an influx of talented players, a surge in attendance and greater media attention for ‘whatever period of time we are the top league in North America.’" One of the few issues the NHL and the NHLPA agreed on last week was “a mechanism for shipping players to the AHL in case of a lockout” (CP, 9/14). USA TODAY’s Mike Brehm reported Hurricanes C Jeff Skinner, the ’10-11 NHL Rookie of the Year, was “one of 28 players whom the Hurricanes sent to the Charlotte Checkers" ahead of the lockout deadline, while Devils C and '11-12 ROY finalist Adam Henrique was sent to the AHL Albany Devils. Players on two-way contracts “can be sent to the AHL during the lockout, and teams want to make sure their youngsters continue to develop while the NHL is silent.” All are “eligible to be recalled when a labor agreement is reached” (USATODAY.com, 9/16). The CP reported the Oilers before the lockout deadline “sent 26 players to the AHL’s Barons, including marquee forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.” First overall draft pick Nail Yakupov tweeted Saturday that he is “on his way to Russia where it’s expected he’ll join a KHL team.” With the Oilers being “a young team many of their impact players are still on entry-level contracts, making it cheap to move a large part of the team to the AHL” (CP, 9/15).