Rumor: KHL team plans to throw big money Kovalchuk's way

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This weekend, I speculated where Ilya Kovalchuk might end up. One of the possible landing spots – at least according to my guesses – could be in the Kontinental Hockey League. My reasoning is simple: it’s Kovalchuk’s home country and the KHL could give him more money than any NHL team (conceivably) could.

Well, according to some rumors – and let’s make this clear, the reports aren’t verified – there is one KHL team already gearing up to go after Kovalchuk in a big way. Russian newspaper Sports-Express reports that the KHL team SKA St. Petersburg wants to offer the high-scoring winger crazy money this summer. (source: Dan Robson of CBC Sports)

Reports say Ilya Kovalchuk will be offered a whopping contract to join SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) next season.

Sport-Express, a Russian newspaper, reported that the team plans to make the New Jersey Devils left winger an offer worth $42 million US over three years. The reports have not be verified.

Now, again, this is pure rumor. They haven’t even officially extended the offer.

Still, that hypothetical contract would net Kovalchuk $14 million per season. That’s more than $5 million per year than Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s highest-paid player, is making right now. That’s a lot of clams.

The KHL keeps resembling a Russian WHA, so perhaps Kovalchuk will become their Bobby Hull.

No doubt about it, Kovalchuk’s contract situation – whether he signs with an NHL team or someone in the KHL – will be one of the biggest stories of the summer. We’re clearly in the “speculation” period of this story since free agency day (July 1) is still a few weeks away.

Pro Hockey Talk will guide you the whole way with rumors, analysis and cheesy jokes.

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen