The insurance on Alex Ovechkin for this year’s World Championships came to $400,000 and he played in only three games. The price for a KHL season will be much higher. (Photo by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/GettyImages)
By Stu Hackel
They’re packing up and getting ready to go: Locked out NHL players have begun their inevitable migration to Europe in search of work.
Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar are headed to Magnitogorsk to play for Metallurg of the KHL. Jaromir Jagr heads home to Kladno in the Czech Republic to play for his hometown team, which he owns with his father, and it seems that Tomas Plekanec will go with him. Joe Thornton, who met his wife while playing for Davos in the Swiss league during the last lockout, will go back there and could be joined by Rick Nash, his linemate in Davos that season. Ilya Kovalchuk, Ruslan Fedotenko, Lubomir Visnovsky, Jiri Tlusty, Mark Streit, Yannick Weber, Jiri Hudler, Jussi Jokinen and goalies Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov are also part of the first wave of signings across the Atlantic. There are indications that Alex Ovechkin, Logan Couture, Niklas Backstrom and Anze Kopitar could be right behind while Pavel Datsyuk, who had reportedly been signed actually remains undecided. (You can follow the post-lockout transactions here.)
These signings occasionally get murky, confirmed then unconfirmed. The player and the team must agree on the money, the player has to be formally transferred by the IIHF (Nail Yakopov is having that problem) and there is also the matter of insurance and we’ll get into that below.
What’s not murky is that while players wait for negotiators to reach an agreement, staying in shape is a priority. That’s why some choose to play in Europe. They can rent ice in North America and scrimmage with each other all they want, or practice with established clubs in their areas on a daily basis, but nothing takes the place of real games. For some, especially those who have families in North America, it’s not always an easy decision to pick up and go, so they may delay a Euro decision in hope that the sides reach an agreement sooner rather than later. But the longer this CBA stalemate goes on, the more those who remain here will consider going over.