Was Alex Ovechkin serious on Wednesday when he said would consider playing in Russia beyond this season if a new NHL agreement with its players calls for salary reductions for players?
Or was it just union-inspired rhetoric?
As to the future, it will depend on what kind of conditions there will be in the NHL with the new CBA, Ovechkin told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
If our contracts get slashed, I will have to think whether to return there or not. I wont rule out staying in the KHL, even past this season.
Those comments fall under the category of things that should make the NHL go
Hmmmm. And its not the first time Ovechkin has threatened his own walkout.
On Sept. 4, Ovechkin told a small group of reporters at Kettler pretty much the same thing.
If theyre going to cut a percentage of the contracts and number of years, I dont think lots of guys who sign American deals are going to come back and play here, Ovechkin said. Its not reasonable to be here. You have to think of your future. You have to think of your family.
Asked if he really thought NHL players would sign contracts in Europe and never return,
Ovechkin replied, Yeah, why not?
For the record, Ovechkin, who turned 27 earlier this month, has nine years and 88 million remaining on the 13-year, 124 million extension he signed with the Capitals in 2008.
Even if the 2012-13 NHL season is wiped away by a lockout, Ovechkin is scheduled to earn 9 million next season and 10 million in each of the following seven seasons, ending with the 2020-21 season when he is 35 years old.
Ovechkins contract with the Capitals also carries a no-trade clause that kicks in on July 1, 2014 and states that each September he can list up to 10 teams to which he will not accept a trade.
Ovechkins contract with Dynamo Moscow is reportedly worth close to 6 million and carries a monthly 100,000 insurance premium paid by the team. So what is to stop Ovechkin from staying in Russia?
For one, it would be a breach of contract against the Capitals. It would also violate the agreement between the NHL and the KHL to honor players contracts.
And then there is the possibility of sanctions from the International Ice Hockey Federation and the NHLs involvement in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, an event Ovechkin desperately wants to be a part of.
Given the fact NHL players almost certainly will need to take a reduction in pay to end the current labor standoff, Ovechkin's threat should be taken very seriously by the NHL.
And is anyone completely surprised?
Ovechkin has been a lightning rod for the NHL since he entered the league following the last lockout. If this one lasts an entire season, the fireworks involving Ovechkin will only escalate.