Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Frolov receive offers from KHL

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kovalchukkhl.jpgWhen it comes to Russian hockey players – from superstars to middling talent – the KHL will be a great negotiating tool for the foreseeable future. Sure, there are players from other countries who might elect to go there, too (as you could see with goalies Ray Emery – briefly – and Robert Esche). But for the most part, though, the close-to-home nature of the Kontinental Hockey League will beckon for Russians (and Czechs/Slovaks too).

So it should come as no surprise that star forward Ilya Kovalchuk – along with solid, if inconsistent performer Alex Frolov – were offered contracts with the rebel league. TSN reports that Kovalchuk may prefer to stay in the NHL, though, and won’t consider jumping ship to the KHL until he can weigh other offers once the free agency bidding war begins on July 1.

Sovsports, a Russian sports website, is reporting that SKA St Petersburg made an offer to Kovalchuk that would see the sniper make $30 million over a three-year span.

That’s big coin, even for an explosive star with such name recognition like Kovalchuk. While explaining his pessimism in keeping Frolov, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi also reveal why even an NHL team might not be able to provide such a lucrative offer for Kovalchuk. (Brandon also touched on the scarce chances the Kings have of re-signing the mercurial forward.)

“The other thing we’re confronting here, don’t forget, is the KHL, and they’re offering an awful lot of money, tax-free,” Lombardi told the radio station. “It’s almost like the WHA days, where the difference in dollars is huge.”

“I talked to him at the end of the year, and I said to myself, ‘This is no different than when Bobby Hull left.’ I’m sure he wanted to stay in the NHL, but when the money is that much different, you can’t blame him.”

Lombardi makes a good point, although the Hull parallels probably work just a touch better when speaking about Kovalchuk rather than Frolov.

To me, Kovalchuk’s decision will come down to whether or not he values playing in the most competitive league in the world. If he wants money alone (and really, it could very well be a significant difference), then the KHL is his best best. He can also make nice money in the NHL, though, and do so while testing himself at the highest level.

Along with Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov, Kovalchuk’s decision will be one of the biggest of the summer. Expect more analysis, speculation and information on that as the month goes along.

Crosby: Penguins ‘probably deserved better’ vs. Senators in Game 6

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If you didn’t know that the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be awfully cruel, then the last week or so of action should make it pretty clear.

The Nashville Predators lost top center Ryan Johansen to a scary ailment few would have seen coming. The Anaheim Ducks fell in both games to the Johansen-less Predators, even after dominating significant chunks of Game 6. At least one Ducks player wondered if the better team won.

Much like in life, “fair” and “deserve” only matter so much. Sports have a scoreboard to serve as the ultimate deciding factor.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have similar thoughts after falling 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight, extending the Eastern Conference Final to a decisive Game 7. You can nitpick questionable penalties and missed chances, but really, how negative can you be after Craig Anderson puts forth a blazing 45-save performance (with no overtime)?

Mike Sullivan and others echoed such thoughts.

” … Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, but I don’t think we can get discouraged by that,” Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got to take the positives from it, and we’ve got to build on it, and we’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.

That’s not the sort of take that’s going to make the Senators angry in Game 7. The tone of the Senators’ discussions was likely very different after they lost Game 5 by a 7-0 score, yet maybe there was similar self belief.

Anderson puzzles Penguins as Senators force Game 7

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Who could blame fans for chanting “Andy” tonight?

The Ottawa Senators said they would choose to fight in Game 6, and Craig Anderson truly battled in this one, refusing to allow this unlikely run to an end on Tuesday. They wouldn’t roll over, even after a 7-0 humiliation in Game 5.

The underrated goalie continued his memorable (and emotional) 2016-17 season with a brilliant performance, making 45 saves to help Ottawa manage a gutsy 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With that, hockey fans get a true treat: the Eastern Conference will go to a Game 7 on Thursday.

The Senators opted for a “bend but don’t break” strategy for much of the contest, possibly to Guy Boucher’s preference. Even so, the Penguins managed to grind their way to a 1-0 win thanks to another hard-work goal from Evgeni Malkin.

Mistakes would come back to haunt the Penguins, however, as Bobby Ryan broke Ottawa’s lengthy power-play drought to tie things up on a 5-on-3.

With their season in question thanks to a 1-1 tie in the third period, Mike Hoffman sent a booming shot by Matt Murray, and that ended up being all the Senators needed to tie the series 3-3.

Anderson was the standout, but Erik Karlsson was a hero in the way his detractors might not expect.

You can watch Game 7 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports App.

Report: Avalanche get permission to speak with Leafs assistant GM Dubas

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Could one of the most hapless possession teams of this more analytics-leaning era nab arguably the most promising analytics-leaning executive in the NHL?

It’s a reasonable question, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Colorado Avalanche asked for and received permission to speak to Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.

Current GM Joe Sakic recently got a vote of confidence and also cleaned out some of the coaching staff around Jared Bednar, so this is certainly a time of change for the Avalanche.

It will be interesting to see what kind of role Dubas would receive if he did join the fold in Colorado. Would he still be considered an assistant GM, only with more sway with what would likely be a smaller group of decision-makers? Could we see Sakic move up and give Dubas the full GM title (or eventually transition that role to the young upstart)? Might there be some other factor that would qualify as a more “outside the box” idea?

One thing seems clear: the Avalanche might want to be decisive, as demand could be significant for Dubas if he’s even somewhat on the market.

This could be interesting, especially if you’re a nerd for team-building storylines.

Video: Senators score twice to take 2-1 lead in Game 6

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The Ottawa Senators have defied odds during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they’ve done so with what’s often been an ice-cold power play.

They finally struck gold on the man advantage on Tuesday, and at a key moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins were dominating much of the game and pressing for an even bigger edge after Evgeni Malkin made it 1-0.

Maybe the Penguins got overzealous, or maybe officials … finally started making some calls. Either way, the Senators ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage for almost a minute-and-a-half. With that opportunity, Bobby Ryan scored a huge goal for Ottawa on a shot that was both oddly and perfectly placed.

Moments later, Kyle Turris narrowly missed a golden opportunity, so the contest remained tied 1-1.

Despite a late push by the Penguins to finish the second, Game 6 will enter the third period with a 1-1 score.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE COVERAGE FOR GAME 6

Update: Mike Hoffman‘s booming shot gave the Senators a 2-1 lead in the third. We’ll see if Pittsburgh can tie it up.