Tag: SKA St. Petersburg

Ilya Kovalchuk

PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Kovalchuk retires, returns to KHL


Ilya Kovalchuk was supposed to be a Devil for the rest of his career. He was one of the team’s best forwards and poised to stay in New Jersey for the duration of his 15-year deal.

But in 2013, the plan changed. After a lockout-shortened campaign that saw him deal with injury and finish second on the team in points, he called it “probably my worst season,” then stunned the hockey world by retiring from the NHL in June.

Kovalchuk’s retirement didn’t mean he was walking away from the game itself. Rather, he was bailing on the Devils to go play back home in the KHL.

He forfeited the remainder of his $100 million contract to play for the team he suited up for during the lockout – SKA St. Petersburg. Kovalchuk’s mother said his time with SKA during the lockout inspired him to find a way to return, which he did in dramatic fashion.

Of course, he had to make sure the Devils would allow him to go. And asking the team to be OK with parting ways had to be some kind of awkward, especially after all they went through to get him. When the Devils were negotiating with Kovalchuk during the summer of 2010, they were busted for circumventing the salary cap on their first agreed-upon deal. Their punishment? Forfeiting a future first-round pick, a punishment that will come into effect at the 2014 NHL Draft.

So, what was the Devils’ motivation to part ways with Kovalchuk?

For one, they were in a financial bind as the salary cap was reduced to $64.3 million following the lockout-shortened season. They were also dealing with cash-flow issues, as then-owner Jeff Vanderbeek was seeking to sell the team. Having Kovalchuk’s monster contract on the books made both those situations more difficult.

source: Getty ImagesLamoriello agreed to let Kovalchuk go and with it controversy erupted over the Devils finding a way (again) to escape the clutches of the upper limit of the salary cap. Months later, Vanderbeek sold the team to a group led by Joshua Harris.

With Kovalchuk off the books and on his way to Russia, the Devils suddenly had money to spend — and did so by signing Jaromir Jagr and Damien Brunner to free-agent deals.

Jagr alone has helped make people forget about Kovalchuk leaving town with his handling of the press and, oh yeah, his ability to keep scoring at age 41.

As for Kovalchuk, life is good for him in Russia. SKA named him team captain and he’s essentially the face of the KHL. He’s currently eighth in the league in points, averaging over a point per game.

Ponikarovsky jumps to KHL, signs two-year deal with SKA

Alexei Ponikarovsky

Ilya Kovalchuk will have familiar company joining him in Russia.

Igor Eronko reports Devils forward Alexei Ponikarovsky has signed a two-year deal in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg. There he’ll team up with Kovalchuk and aim to win the Gagarin Cup to make up for the Stanley Cup they couldn’t win in 2012 with New Jersey.

Since being traded by Toronto in the 2009-10 season, Ponikarovsky’s career has seen him bounce to five different teams (Pittsburgh, Carolina, Los Angeles, New Jersey, and Winnipeg) and two different tours with the Devils. In those three seasons he’s scored a total of 25 goals, the kinds of numbers he used to put up in a single season with the Leafs.

Now that he’s off to Russia, it gives him a chance to find a spark in his game yet again. After hopping from team to team here, this move may actually be for the best.

Report: Dynamo Moscow president wants to keep Ovechkin in KHL

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin has spent the last two months playing for KHL club Dynamo Moscow.

Now it appears Dynamo isn’t ready to let him go.

According to reports from Russia’s R-Sport, team president Arkady Rotenberg is prepared to try and retain Ovechkin’s services once the work stoppage is settled.

“Is there the desire to retain Alexander Ovechkin at Dynamo after the NHL lockout? Dynamo has such thoughts,” Rotenberg explained. “I heard that there are those thoughts too at the Army Sports Club in St. Petersburg.

“So we are looking in that direction, we’ll see whether it’ll work out.”

The “Army Sports Club” line is in reference to Ilya Kovalchuk, currently plying his trade with SKA St. Petersburg.

It seems SKA is equally interested in retaining Kolvalchuk’s services — since joining, the Devils sniper has racked up 26 points in 16 games.

Oh yeah, he’s also served as team captain.

With CBA talks heating up, many European clubs are bracing for the potential departure of their locked-out NHL stars — so it’s not surprising KHL clubs are already exploring the option of retaining players.

On that note, here’s what PHT’s legal analyst Eric Macramalla had to say in his most recent Ask a Lawyer piece, “Could Ovechkin and/or Kovalchuk legally get out of their NHL contracts?

An excerpt:

An NHL contract, which is called a “Standard Player Contract” or an “SPC”, provides at Section 14(b) that a team has the right to terminate a contract if that player shall “fail, refuse or neglect to render his services hereunder or in any other manner materially breach this Contract”.

Not rendering services would include not showing up for work. So while Ovechkin and/or Kovalchuk wouldn’t be in a position to challenge the validity of their contracts, they could elect not to return to the NHL, thereby setting in motion a series of events that would end with their clubs terminating their contracts.

Before termination, that same SPC at Section 4 says that a team can suspend a player without pay for not discharging the obligations under his contract. Again, that would include not playing for the team.

Their teams could also look to sue for breach of contract, which would entitle them to an award of monetary damages. They wouldn’t, however, be able to sue to force the players to come back and play.

Macramalla also notes the understanding between the KHL and NHL to honor each others’ contracts would come into play. There would be pressure on the KHL to not allow either to play, but it would be just that — pressure.


Ovechkin: I’ll stay in the KHL if the NHL cuts salaries

Now Ilya Kovalchuk is threatening to stay in the KHL

More throwbacks: Former Sharks defenseman Andrei Zyuzin looking at NHL return

Andrei Zyuzin

If reports are to be believed, Jaromir Jagr might not be the only former NHLer coming back to North America from the KHL this season. Genadi Boguslavski of Sovetsky Sport out of Russia reports that former Sharks first round pick in 1996 defenseman Andrei Zyuzin is close to returning to the NHL. Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnokov follows that report up saying that Zyuzin has two offers from NHL teams to return to the NHL after a three season absence from the league.

Zyuzin was the second overall pick in 1996 by the Sharks, a draft year that saw Ottawa take Chris Phillips first overall. A guy named Zdeno Chara happened to get drafted by the Islanders 53rd overall that year while guys like Willie Mitchell (199th), Tomas Kaberle (204th), and Sami Salo (239th) were taken later on. Hey, you win some and you lose some in the draft.

Zyuzin’s NHL career saw him play for ten seasons with six different teams totaling up 38 goals and 82 assists in 496 games and 446 penalty minutes. At 6’1″ 208 pounds, Zyuzin’s game was a physical one and he never lived up to the second overall selection hype that would demand. In the KHL he played for both SKA St. Petersburg and Atlant Mytishchi. There he put up numbers similar to those he had in the NHL with his best season coming two years ago with SKA scoring five goals and adding 15 assists in 53 games.

As for who might be interested in bringing Zyuzin back to North America, your guess is as good as ours. While there are some teams in need of defensive depth and help (Islanders? Blue Jackets? Wild?) finding a way to fit in a guy that was an awkward fit in the NHL when he left after the 2008 season might prove to be difficult. With Zyuzin’s sort of game he found it tough to adjust to the way the NHL changed after the lockout. Perhaps he’s found ways to change while away in Russia, but if the reports of his eventual return to the NHL are true, it’ll be curious to see how it pans out for him.

Could we see the NHL return of … Alexei Yashin?


If you want to be technical about it, Alexei Yashin will receive an NHL salary whether he plays another second of hockey in 2011-12. In fact, he’ll receive a bit more than $2.2 million per year for the next four years thanks to the New York Islanders’ decision to buy out his massive contract way back in June 2007.

Of course, there’s a big difference between getting paid to play hockey at (or near) its highest level and being paid simply to stay away from the rink. Yashin’s future is now in serious – but perhaps intriguing? – doubt after it was revealed that SKA St. Petersburg opted against giving him another contract.

Yashin’s obvious red flags

Naturally, it’s not a great sign when the KHL sours on a player, especially a prominent Russian ex-star such as Yashin. That being said, it’s not as if we haven’t been through this drill before. Evgeni Nabokov’s KHL run was a spectacular failure, but he still received NHL interest when he expressed the desire to return.

Now, a direct comparison isn’t totally valid because of Yashin’s star-crossed reputation. The Ottawa Senators probably rank at the top of the list of teams who are probably uninterested in bringing him in after he set out the 1999-2000 season thanks to a contract tiff. There were plenty of questions about his character and locker room influence when he played his last NHL season at 33 years old, let alone at 37.

The case for giving Yashin a chance

That being said, a team desperate for offense might want to at least consider taking a low-risk, medium-reward gamble on Yashin. For all the criticisms he (justifiably) receives, Yashin was still fairly productive – at least on the offensive end. He scored 50 goals in 58 games in 2006-07, helping the Islanders make their last postseason run. His final season with SKA was underwhelming (33 points in 52 games), but he was a steady scorer in most other situations. Yashin scored 187 points in 220 regular season games in Russia and 40 points in 43 playoff games.

It’s reasonable to expect that Yashin’s bad reputation (and perhaps an unreasonable asking price) will derail almost any chance he has at an NHL comeback. That being said, a smart GM should at least take a look at his team and wonder if a cheap Yashin could actually fit in. If the Chicago Blackhawks can talk themselves into thinking that Daniel Carcillo might improve their locker room chemistry, then a team can rationalize just about anything these days.

Yashin’s NHL return is highly unlikely, but let us ask: would any team actually be wise in giving him a shot? Let us know how you feel in the comments.

(H/T to On the Forecheck.)