First it was Alex Ovechkin threatening to stay in the KHL if the NHL reduced player salaries via rollback or escrow.
Now it’s Ilya Kovalchuk.
“Basically, I don’t rule out staying in Russia in the case of a reduction of our salaries in the NHL,” Kovalchuk told Sportbox.ru (via RT.com). “I just don’t understand why they needed to sign such contracts. Or they were just hoping to cut the percentage later? I believe that the contracts must be respected and this is a fundamental question. There’s no way the head of the [NHL Players’] Association and the hockey players will agree on the wage reduction.”
The NHL will argue that it’s always honored contracts and will continue to do so under the terms of a new CBA. If those terms mean players lose money via escrow, so be it. It’s not like players have never lost money to escrow.
But it’s the principle that counts, say the players.
Also, the money.
Kovalchuk, like Ovechkin, stands to lose more than most to escrow. The 29-year-old is set to earn $11 million next season and $11.3 million the next.
Whether Kovalchuk would 1) actually stay in Russia if his effective NHL salary were reduced or 2) be allowed to continue playing in Russia are two big unknowns. The KHL and NHL have an agreement to honor each other’s contracts, and once a new NHL CBA is signed and the lockout ends, Kovalchuk would once again be under contract to the Devils.