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KHL braces for mass exodus of NHL stars; what happens to Russian all-star game?

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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This is Kris Letang. You know him as a defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he’s also the big new addition for the Kontinental Hockey League’s SKA St. Petersburg. Said team vice-president Alexei Kasatonov, to R Sport:

“He is one of the best NHL defensemen and was nominated for the Norris Trophy last season. The lockout is continuing, so we’ve decided that it’s better for Kris to come right now to get into shape and prepare for the playoffs.”

Yeah, about that. The NHL lockout came to an end on Sunday morning when the players and owners agreed on a tentative framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Letang’s tenure in the KHL is going to make Barry Melrose’s tenure as Tampa Bay head coach look like Lindy Ruff’s in Buffalo.

There are roughly 40 NHL players that are playing in the KHL or had KHL deals during the lockout. Major stars like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk created buzz for the Russian league and helped it create inroads onto North American television.

What happens to the KHL now that the lockout is over?

Those stars go home, as KHL VP Vladimir Shalaev told R Sport on Sunday:

There have been calls from hockey pundits in Russia for Ovechkin, Malkin and the other stars to see out the KHL season regardless of what happens in North America.  Shalaev said that was not realistically on the cards, but he insisted it was the job of the NHL to announce who exactly would have to return.

"Those who are on those contracts will have to leave."

NHL training camps are expected to begin this week. The KHL’s All-Star Game is scheduled for Jan. 13 in Chelyabinsk. Eight of the all-star teams’ 12 starters are NHL regulars. What’s the Russian League to do? Shawn McBride of the KHL tells Puck Daddy:

“As far as the fifth annual All-Star Game, it will still be held in Chelyabinsk next Sunday, January 13th.  If roster changes need to be made due to the departure of NHL players, those will be addressed as necessary with other deserving players being added to the rosters.”

Congratulations, random Russian dude who couldn’t crack the NHL. Hey now, you’re an all-star, get your game on …

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