New Jersey Devils star forward Ilya Kovalchuk says he would have no problem staying in the Kontinental Hockey League if the National Hockey League imposes a reduction of player salaries in a new collective bargaining agreement.
In an interview with Sportbox.ru, Kovalchuk said that he and other Russian stars like Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Bryzgalov are comfortable playing in their home country and many players would think twice about returning to the NHL.
Recently the NHL proposed a 50/50 revenue split with the NHL Players’ Association but Kovalchuk called the offer “a bluff.”
“It’s the same old offer, but in different words,” Kovalchuk said. “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.”
Last week Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin also said he would consider staying in Russia if NHL salaries are significantly slashed.
“What we are offered now isn’t serious,” Kovalchuk said. “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. 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.”
Kovalchuk echoed the sentiments players and many fans have concerning salary rollbacks, that contracts that have been signed should be honoured.
“Basically, I don’t rule out staying in Russia in the case of a reduction of our salaries in the NHL. 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 (NHLPA) and the hockey players will agree on the wage reduction.”
Kovalchuk is currently playing for SKA Saint Petersburg and has seven goals, 20 points in 11 games.
“I can play in the KHL for the whole year and I’ll do it with great pleasure,” Kovalchuk 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.”
Since breaking into the NHL in 2001 the 29-year-old has been one of the league’s top stars, registering at least 50 points in each of his 10 NHL seasons. In 779 regular season games the sniper has 406 goals and 785 points.