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.