Ovechkin, other NHLers plan mass exodus

Ovechkin, other NHLers plan mass exodus
September 16, 2012, 2:52 pm
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Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has returned home to Moscow and says he is prepared to play in Russias KontinentalHockey League.Goaltender Michal Neuvirth tweeted this photo on Friday,with the message, It Looks like Europe fornow!!! Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson said they will lookinto playing in the Swedish Elite League.With a growing sense the NHL lockout will be a long one,players are quickly committing themselves to leagues overseas, guaranteeing theirown financial security while placing pressure on the NHL to change its stanceon a reduction of their share of league revenue from 57 percent 49 percent.On Sunday the mass exodus began when NHL stars NHL stars Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar signed with Mettalurg of the KHL. The KHL reportedly has set a maximum of 65 percent of a player's current NHL salary, which means Ovechkin could make as much as 6.2 million to play in Russia.

What happens if a lockout comes and the top 100 players inthe world sign over in Europe for a year-longcontract? Capitals player representative Brooks Laich said. Then what? Is the game going to return? The fans are comingto see the players, not coming to see the owners. The top players are alwaysgoing to play. Theres always going to be a spot for them. This is the mostcompetitive and toughest league to make it in the world. This is where the besthockey players are, so if theyre available other teams are going to come calling.Its obviously a tough subject, Capitals coach Adam Oatessaid of his players willingness to play overseas, but its part of life. Fora young guy, it depends on where he is in his career. Well send some guys downto Hershey, but other than that, its a business. Its a job and this is theugly part of it.In a memo from the NHLPA last week, players were advised toconsider the option of playing overseas and were reminded to secure insurancepolicies that cover their contracts in the event they suffer career-ending injuries.That, of course, is the biggest concern of NHL owners andgeneral managers who have invested in their top players. Ovechkin has nineyears remaining on a 13-year, 124 million contract.Suffering a career-ending injury in Russia or worse yet, a decisionto continue his career there -- would be a catastrophic loss to the Caps andtheir fans.I cant say Im nervous about it, Oates said. But younever know what might happen.The Caps already have assigned defenseman Dmitry Orlov,goaltender Braden Holtby and forwards Stan Galiev and Mattias Sjogren to theAHL Hershey Bears.We need them to play, Caps general manager George McPheesaid. Its better for them and us, long-term.Veteran forwards Mike Ribeiro, Jason Chimera and BrooksLaich said they plan on remaining in the area and finding ice to rent in theevent of a quick settlement. But as the lockout continues, many of the Caps playerssay they will return to their summer homes and begin looking elsewhere for aplace to play.The beauty of the game today is that its a global game,Laich said, and there are other opportunities.