Report: Kovalchuk "close" to signing with KHL team, Nabokov to join him?

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A report from a Russian publication called Sport Express is reporting that Ilya Kovalchuk is close to signing a deal with the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg. Oh, you’re not stopping me? All right then. Rich Chere at the Newark Star-Ledger gives us the details.

SKA general manager Andrey Tochitsky told Sport Express that “it’s hard to judge whether talks with Kovalchuk’s agent are close to finish. We discuss terms of the agreement, but it’s hard to say when they finish”.

It has been rumored that SKA’s offer of $9 million per season trumps what the Devils have offered — somewhere in the range of $8.5 million per season over the course of a multi-year contract. Among NHL teams, the Devils are considered the favorite to land Kovalchuk.

To give you a clearer translation of what’s going on here, it appears to be more politicking. This time it’s coming from a league desperate to get a big win over the NHL as far as talent acquisition goes.

UPDATE: Helene Elliott of the LA Times tweets that the Los Angeles Kings are now back in the hunt for Kovalchuk. Welcome to Public Negotiations 101 folks.

Kings and Kovalchuk are “re-engaged” Lombardi
says. Kovy to make first counter-offer today. This gets stranger and
stranger…

That said, there is one piece of information from Chere that gets intriguing, mentioning that former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has a lot of interest from the same team in Russia and that he’s actually considering going there. Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnokov reported via Twitter that money isn’t the issue with Nabokov.

Nabokov’s Russian agent said the negotiation with the KHL is over concerns of Evgeni’s family & his children. The next round is set for Wed.

Perhaps we’ll get news of our first major player move to Russia since Jaromir Jagr left to join Avangard Omsk, but I wouldn’t expect it to be from Ilya Kovalchuk.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.