Russian hockey star Ilya Kovalchuk, says he doesn’t rule out the possibility of remaining in the KHL if player salaries are cut in North America.
The New Jersey Devils forward, who moved to SKA Saint Petersburg for the NHL lockout, has called the league’s latest proposal to share income fifty-fifty “a bluff”.
“It’s the same old offer, but in different words,” Kovalchuk told Sportbox.ru. “The people, who are versed in the matter, had no problem seeing this. Right now the NHL has very bad media and they want to fix it. It’s too bad that there’s no dialogue at the moment. Let’s hope the club bosses will finally decide to meet the demands of the players. But I don’t think that the lockout would end anytime soon.”
The 29-year-old said other Russian big names, currently competing in the KHL, share his opinion on the issue.
“What we are offered now isn’t serious,” he said. “Alex Ovechkin and I agree on this. I already discussed this matter with him as well as with Evgeny Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Bryzgalov. We’ll wait for other proposals. In the meantime, 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.”
In 2010, Kovalchuk and New Jersey agreed a 15-year deal worth $100 million, which the player expects the Devil’s bosses to follow.
“Basically, I don’t rule out staying in Russia in the case of a reduction of our salaries in the NHL,” the player stressed. “I just don’t understand why they needed to sign such contracts? Or they were just hoping to cut the percentage later? I believe that the contracts must be respected and this is a fundamental question. There’s no way the head of the [NHL Players’] Association and the hockey players will agree on the wage reduction.”
Kovi also stressed that he felt fine without the NHL action as the Europe’s top league provides him with the needed level of competition and excitement.
“I can play in the KHL for the whole year and I’ll do it with great pleasure,” the Russian explained. “I am glad that no matter where we play we get a full house and very good support from the spectators. And it’s also nice to play in a good team. I’d love to compete in the playoffs for SKA. But if suddenly I’ll have to leave for the NHL, I don’t think it’ll be a big problem for the team as we've got four equal lines.”
Kovalchuk has the best record among the Russian NHL stars returning home during the lockout as he has already collected 20 points (7 goals, 13 assist) in 11 games for SKA.