The KHL All-Star Game is scheduled for Jan. 13 in Chelyabinsk, the same day NHL training camps are expected to open prior to the League’s truncated 48-game regular season. Russian hockey fans voted nine NHL players into the starting lineups for that game, including Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Zdeno Chara and Ilya Kovalchuk.
On Wednesday, the KHL released a revised roster after the NHL settled its lockout and players like Ovechkin returned to North America. All of the NHL stars have been dropped from the teams … except for Kovalchuk.
Thus continues this bizarre dance between Kovalchuk and the NHL, as rumors fly that the New Jersey Devils star is considering staying in the KHL. Kovalchuk has been non-committal about a return to the NHL, claiming he wants to see what the ratified CBA looks like before heading back to North America.
Via Tom Gulitti of Fire and Ice, some additional info from Russian sources:
Pavel Lysenkov of Sovietsky Sport spoke with Vladimir Shalaev of the KHL, who explained why Kovalchuk is still scheduled to play in the game.
“The CBA will not be signed until Sunday,” Shalaev told Lysenkov. “So Kovalchuk (has) no employment relationship with the NHL, and he is going to Chelyabinsk. ...We are disappointed that all the other NHL stars were quick to go to North America. ... Will Kovalchuk play in the KHL till the end of this season? Do not hurry up. Wait till Sunday…”
Again, all signs point to Kovalchuk returning to the Devils for camp and the start of the NHL season. New Jersey has said it has no reason not to expect Kovalchuk back. It’s hard to imagine the IIHF allowing Kovalchuk to stay in Russia, given the transfer agreement between the two leagues.
But there’s no question the KHL continues to pressure its stars to remain in Russia this season, making Kovalchuk’s continued participation in the League a tad uncomfortable for Devils fans that really, really, really don’t want to start a 2013 campaign without Kovalchuk, an injured Adam Henrique and a departed Zach Parise.