Kovalchuk named captain, but not of Devils

When Zach Parise chose to sign with the Minnesota Wild instead of re-upping with the New Jersey Devils, he created a captaincy vacuum.

Now New Jersey forward Ilya Kovalchuk has been crowned captain… of SKA St. Petersburg of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

The 29-year-old winger is not expected to begin playing in the KHL, whose season is already underway, until Sept. 23, reports ESPNNewYork.com.

The standard KHL contract signed by locked-out NHLers like Kovalchuk includes an opt-out clause that allows them to return to their North American clubs once the work stoppage is lifted.

During the 2004-05 lockout, Kovalchuk played 64 games and scored 55 points in the Russian Superleague.

Kovalchuk, a native of Russia, led the Stanley Cup finalist Devils with 83 points (37 goals, 46 assists) last season.

Prior to joining the Devils, the sniper served as captain of the Atlanta Thrashers after a handful of his teammates collectively made a plea to coach John Anderson and general manager Don Waddell in 2009.

Long-term contracts such as Kovalchuk’s 15-year, $100-million deal with New Jersey (signed in 2010) have been a point of contention in the NHL’s labour negotiations with the NHLPA.