Could Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin pull a Kovalchuk and play in the KHL?

Adam Proteau
Ovechkin Malkin (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Until it happens, the notion of Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin departing the NHL in the prime of their careers and returning to their native Russia to play in the KHL should be considered a significant long shot. However, you shouldn’t take that to mean there’s no chance it takes place. As we saw this weekend when Russian president Alexander Medvedev commented cryptically on the possibility of Malkin and Ovechkin playing for a KHL team next season, there are many who would love nothing more than to convince the two superstars to shock the hockey world and head home.

First thing’s first: ultra-sensitive Caps and Penguins fans who read the above paragraph must be reminded to do some deep-breathing relaxation exercises before falling on their backs and squealing as if they’d been kneed in a soft personal place. If Malkin and/or Ovechkin chose to leave hockey’s top league, it wouldn’t be an indictment of their respective franchises or the NHL itself. Rather, they would be moving back to: the warm comforts of their own culture; a Kontinental League that would treat them like Faberge Eggs with legs; and friends and family who are an ocean away for three-quarters of every year. If the shoe were on the other foot and North American players had to ply their trade in Europe each and every season, North American fans would treat any prodigal son as a hero for choosing to leave a more prominent situation to play at home instead.

There’s also a whole lot of tax-free money that would be thrown at Ovechkin and Malkin, but – and this is where your trusty correspondent wishes there was a sarcasm font – we all know these decisions aren’t about money. It wasn’t about money when Ilya Kovalchuk dropped jaws in 2013 by leaving the New Jersey Devils just three years into a 15-year, $100-million contract, right? He just wanted to go home, and no financial payday could keep him in North America. (And make no mistake – anyone who would try to argue people expected Kovalchuk to leave the NHL that quickly after signing a contract extension is as disingenuous as they come.) Read more

Would you pay Teemu Selanne $5 million to just play home games?

Ryan Kennedy

Finland’s Jokerit club is embarking on a brave new adventure in 2014-15, leaving the Nordic nation’s Liiga in favor of the Russian-based KHL. It’s an odd fit, considering the origins of the Molotov cocktail, but the Helsinki squad is going for it. And according to some Finnish authorities, Jokerit is trying to lure icon Teemu Selanne back into the fold more than two decades after he left for Winnipeg.

Read more

What retirement? Teemu Selanne may sign with Jokerit in KHL

Matt Larkin
Teemu Selanne (Getty Images)

How much has Teemu Selanne driven us wild flirting with retirement over the last decade? Even when he’s “gone,” he may not be really gone.

Finnish team Jokerit has offered the future Hall of Famer, 44, a contract. It would mean playing in his home city of Helsinki and with the Finnish League team that developed him. It would also mean helping Jokerit transition to the Kontinental League, as this coming season the franchise will become the circuit’s first Finnish entry.

Selanne told he’s considering the offer from team owner Roman Rotenberg, and that he’ll make a decision in the next three weeks.

Read more

Alex Ovechkin to KHL would be blessing in disguise for Capitals

Adam Proteau
Alex Ovechkin (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

At first blush, the idea of Alex Ovechkin leaving the NHL to go home to his native Russia and play in the Kontinental League seems screwy. Unfortunately, after nine NHL seasons, Ovechkin has failed to live up to expectations – if not as an individual, then certainly as the driver of a team.

His Washington Capitals are awash in mediocrity and have moved from being a bona fide Cup contender to a draft lottery candidate. He won his second consecutive Rocket Richard Trophy, but had the NHL’s third-worst plus-minus (minus-35). Where once he was the Hockey Elvis, he’s now the King in his unhappy later years, surviving on what he’s always been good at, but never growing as an artist.

So now when you wonder if Ovechkin could actually leave the NHL for the KHL, the question doesn’t seem far-fetched at all. Increasingly, it’s near-fetched. And to this writer, it seems like the best solution for the star and the Capitals. Read more

Arena of KHL’s Ukraine-based Donbass Donetsk looted, set on fire

Rory Boylen
Donbass Donestk

Back in March, we brought to your attention that the KHL’s only Ukraine-based team, Donbass Donetsk, had to move out of their home rink during a playoff run and play out of Bratislava in Slovakia instead. The area in Donetsk had become too dangerous from the proxy Russian invasion.

Now, it appears Donbass Donetsk may not be able to play out of their home arena next season, if at all.

According to reports, Donbass’ rink was looted of computers, TVs, communication equipment and a car by armed people, and then set on fire. Read more

Q&A with Mike Keenan: The KHL, the NHL and a lot of karaoke

Matt Larkin

‘Iron’ Mike Keenan has enjoyed a poetic spring. Almost 20 years to the day after winning the Stanley Cup as coach of the New York Rangers, the legend added to his resume by winning the Kontinental League’s Gagarin Cup with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. His first season coaching in the world’s No. 2 pro league culminated in a thrilling, seven-game victory over Lev Prague in the final. Keenan caught up with THN to describe his fascinating journey, including the KHL’s high standard of play, Russia’s crazy drivers, karaoke and the possibility of an NHL return.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: What was your No. 1 reason for accepting a KHL coaching job in the first place?

MIKE KEENAN: I took the job because I wanted to get back into coaching and the NHL showed no interest. It was not only an opportunity to experience a different hockey setting, but also a cultural opportunity to study other people from a different country.

THN: Paul Maurice had a similar experience before you, leaving the NHL to coach Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Did you seek him out for any advice before you embarked?

KEENAN: I talked to Paul quite a bit prior to my departure or even accepting the job, just to get a feel for the environment I was going to face. Just as importantly, I wanted some detailed information about the organization itself.

THN: Did he warn you about anything?

KEENAN: Not really. He had his own opinion, and I respected it, but I probably went with a completely different approach than what Paul did. In fairness, I’m a little bit older. I think he was a bit more anxious about coaching in the NHL, and I was more interested in the experience.

THN: What were your first impressions of KHL players? How did they respond to you in the early going?

KEENAN: They were really great. We pretty much outlined the expectations we should have of each other from day one. Then we had a brief training camp in Magnitogorsk for a few days, then we went to an Olympic training site in Garmisch, Germany. So we got into more details about our program and what we expected on and off the ice. But the group was really receptive and easy to work with.

THN: Were you recognized as easily around town, or did a KHL coaching gig afford you more anonymity than an NHL one?

KEENAN: Magnitogorsk isn’t a very big city. It’s about 400,000 people. The hockey team’s a focal point for the community, and immediately I was recognized by the public everywhere I went.

THN: Any early culture shock? What stood out to you as different from home?

KEENAN: We had a driver, and I don’t know if there were any rules on the road, but it was completely different than what you’d experience in North America. They’re a lot more aggressive. They drive fast. The other aspect is that I was anticipating a little bit different food menu (laughs). As it turned out, it wasn’t a great deal different. I was surprised. There were a lot of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, fresh fish, meat, poultry. The food was great. The thing that surprised me immediately was the driving. But other than that, I was at the arena most of the time. If not, I was back at the baza where I lived, which is like a university dormitory. They’ve got a KHL station which is 24/7, 365 hockey. I watched quite a bit of that, and I also had access to English news like BBC and CNN, and some other English channels. So between that and the hockey, that’s pretty much of the existence of our home life.

Read more

Top 5: ex-NHLers in the KHL this season

Josh Elliott
Michael Leighton on the Philadelphia Flyers

The Kontinental League’s Gagarin Cup championship came to a conclusion a couple weeks ago, with coach Mike Keenan’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk winning the coveted trophy as the league’s top team.

That win came with the help of a former NHLer you might not know is still playing in Russia: former Toronto Maple Leaf and Carolina Hurricane checker Tim Brent. Brent couldn’t find a home the NHL after his Hurricanes contract expired, but now he’s a KHL champ.

Not bad.

In fact, there are a number of familiar names who have extended their careers by going overseas to play in the KHL.

Here are five former NHLers who earned top-five honours in one the KHL’s statistical categories this year.
Read more

Connor McDavid drafted 77th overall in KHL draft

Rory Boylen
Erie center Connor McDavid (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Kontinental League is holding its 2014 entry draft today and one team laid claim to the likely top pick in next year’s NHL draft.

Erie Otters sensation Connor McDavid was selected by Medvescak Zagreb in the second round of the Russian league’s entry draft, becoming the latest high profile NHL prospect to get picked up in this process. He just finished a phenomenal season in the Ontario League, scoring 28 goals and 99 points in 56 regular season games and 19 points in 14 playoff games.

But will he ever play for Zagreb? Likely not.

The team will now own McDavid’s KHL rights, for potential use during the next inevitable NHL lockout, or for a minor trade. It’s not the first time this has happened. Read more