With the lockout now underway, New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk has officially signed with SKA St. Petersburg of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He is expected to play in Sunday’s game at UHC Dynamo.
Kovalchuk’s contract will allow him to return to the Devils when the NHL lockout is over. This is not the first time Kovy has been linked to the KHL. He played for AK Bars Kazan in Russia during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. SKA St. Petersburg tried to sign Kovalchuk when he became an NHL unrestricted free agent in 2010, before he re-upped with New Jersey.
Other NHL players have also joined the international ranks. Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin signed with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Ottawa’s Sergei Gonchar is on board with them as well. The Islanders’ Lubomir Visnovsky has inked a contract with HC Slovan and Philadelphia’s Ruslan Fedotenko will play for HC Donbass.
Kovalchuk led the Devils with 37 goals and 83 points last season.
I can’t blame the man for trying to keep himself in shape and get ready for another NHL season. While they are in a lockout, I don’t see this one lasting a full season. However, I also don’t see the year starting right on time either. I think a resolution will be reached in a few weeks and the NHL and its players will be looking at a 60-66 game season. That’s certainly not the worst thing in the world for Devils fans. It will give the players a little extra time to rest after having played hockey through the middle of June. After all, most remember what a bad start the Boston Bruins got off to this past season after celebrating a Cup victory. As long as there is a season, no matter how long, this probably plays to the Devils’ advantage in their hopes of defending their Eastern Conference crown.