Ilya Kovalchuk’s decision to “retire” and sign with KHL St. Petersburg sent shockwaves through the NHL. We’ve seen players, some of them very talented, bolt to the KHL before, but is it possible that other Russian stars inked to long-term contracts could attempt to follow in his footsteps?
It sounds like that would be the case if Moscow Dynamo general director Andrey Safronov got his way.
“[Alex] Ovechkin has a current contract with the Capitals. Can we try to pull him out? We’ll talk, we’ll look at each other and will have some result,” Safronov said, according to Russian Machine Never Breaks and CSN Washington.
“Right now all Russian national team players want to come back to their homeland. KHL shows its force and credibility. And finances are important too. Taking taxes in account, playing in Russia has become way more attractive for players.”
When Kovalchuk left, it was suggested that finances played a role. Specifically, what he would have been taxed in the United States compared to Russia. The lockout also influenced his decision.
That being said, every situation is unique. Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Pavel Datsyuk all chose to sign extension with their respective NHL teams over the summer rather than head home.
What Kovalchuk did makes Safronov’s comments more noteworthy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Alex Ovechkin is willing to seriously entertaining the possibility of attempting to terminate what’s left of his 13-year, $124 million contract with the Washington Capitals.
It’s also worth emphasizing that although the Devils chose not to fight against Kovalchuk’s decision, they had the option.