A lot of big-name Russian-born players went to the KHL over the lockout and a couple, like Ilya Kovalchuk, suggested months ago that it might not be a temporary assignment.
“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.
With the NHL season about to get underway, Kovalchuk is still with St. Petersburg SKA and playing with them today, according to the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti. So is he just getting in a little extra time with the team he has been captaining, or is something else going on?
TSN Bob McKenzie’s tweeted that many in New Jersey are hearing that Kovalchuk might not return, although McKenzie cautioned that it’s just a rumor and not something he’s confirmed.
For his part, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello hasn’t spoken with Kovalchuk yet, according to the Bergen Record. However, Lamoriello hasn’t gotten any indication that Kovalchuk is thinking about staying in Russia in defiance of the 15-year, $100 million deal he signed with New Jersey.
Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman added that he’s “working on” arrangements for the superstar to head back to New Jersey.
So now we wait to see if that happens or if the rumors have a basis in reality.
Kovalchuk, 29, is signed with the Devils through 2024-25 and has been paid just $12 million of his $100 million deal. If he were to stay in Russia, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says his contracted “could be” voided.
Update (11:19 a.m. ET):
Sorry, Isles: Visnovsky to stick with KHL club (Updated)
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks
A statement from Raffi Torres:
“I accept the 41-game suspension handed down to me by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. I worked extremely hard over the last two years following reconstructive knee surgery to resume my NHL career, and this is the last thing I wanted to happen. I am disappointed I have put myself in a position to be suspended again. I sincerely apologize to Jakob for the hit that led to this suspension, and I’m extremely thankful that he wasn’t seriously injured as a result of the play. I also want to apologize to my Sharks teammates and the organization.”
A statement from San Jose GM Doug Wilson:
“The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL’s supplementary discipline decision regarding Raffi. While we do not believe there was any malicious intent, this type of hit is unacceptable and has no place in our game. There is a difference between playing hard and crossing the line and there is no doubt, in this instance, Raffi crossed that line. We’re very thankful that Jakob was not seriously injured as a result of this play.”
Silfverberg says he expects to play Saturday when the Ducks open their regular season Saturday in San Jose.