Ilya Kovalchuk recently stated that he is willing to stay with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL indefinitely if player wages are reduced in the NHL labor talks. While he has every right to feel that way, simply put, he will come back to the NHL.
Here’s what he said via Sportbox.ru:
“We are all happy here [in the KHL]. If the conditions in the NHL will be unclear, many guys will think twice whether to return there or not. Basically, I don’t rule out staying in Russia in the case of a reduction of our salaries in the NHL.”
“It’s the same old offer, but in different words. Right now, the NHL has very bad media and they want to fix it.”
“Alex Ovechkin and I agree on this. I already discussed this matter with him as well as with Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Bryzgalov. We’ll wait for other proposals.”
One big reason he won’t stay in Russia? His family. His daughter Karolina is second grade. She has two younger brothers, Phillip and Artem. Kovalchuk bought two acres worth of land on Frick Drive in Alpine, NJ when he first came to the New Jersey Devils. He even claimed that he struggled in his first full season with the Devils because he couldn’t see them all the time. On off days, he flew down to Florida to see his wife and kids for just a few hours. Then he flew back to Jersey. It will come down to this; will Kovalchuk pick up and move to Russia with his family if wages are reduced in the hopeful labor agreement? Or will he stay in New Jersey, still make a pretty good chunk of change and let his family live a life with a place they’ve become familiar with and comfortable? I say the latter of those two.
Now, if he is referencing a scenario where there was an agreement during this season and he decides to finish out the year in Russia…that could potentially come to fruition. He could leave behind his family in New Jersey for a few months, finish his KHL season and then come home to prepare for a full 2013-14 campaign in the NHL. That I could see happening. So in my opinion, he either comes to the Devils immediately after the agreement or he finishes the final few months with SKA St. Petersburg and then returns to NJ. This is not a case of Kovalchuk leaving the Devils permanently and forever because of potential lost wages.
Also, I don’t think it will ever come down to wage reduction in the CBA talks. The players yielded 24 percent of their salaries back in the 2004-05 labor dispute. I think the NHLPA would rather stand pat and lose a ton of games before they ever take another cut in pay. So considering all these hypotheticals, I fully expect Ilya Kovalchuk to be in a red and white uniform when the Devils take the ice for their first NHL game since the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.