After the NHL successfully overturned the Devil’s 17 year contract offer to Ilya Kovalchuk, the high-scoring Russian is once again a free agent in the prime of his career. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly stated that the contract was a “circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
This decision may prove devastating as Kovalchuk was offered the same 17 year deal from the KHL in Russia. The KHL is run slightly different and also recently lured Maxim Afinogenov of the Atlanta Thrashers and Denis Grebeshkov of the Nashville Predators back to Russia with attractive offers that their former NHL teams did not match.
The KHL (or Kontinental Hockey League) is an international professional league ranked as the strongest league in Europe. The league has been gaining respect and promise over the years and has been attracting more and more professional level players away from the NHL.
As of today the KHL is still mainly Russian but almost 30 percent is comprised of Eastern European, Northern European and North American players. The KHL began its operations with 24 teams. Today 20 are based in the Russian Federation with three others located in Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan. As the league continues to grow, more and more players may look at the KHL as an equal to the NHL.
Nothing is finalized as of now but this could prove a viable option for Kovalchuk as he faces contract re-negotiations with the Devils and anyone else pursuing his services. The KHL is not out of the question and if he signs it would force the Devils to re-think their offensive strategy.
Other notable former NHL players and current KHL stars include Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Yashin and Marcel Hossa.