Forgive SKA St. Petersburg if the KHL power goes into a bit of a slump in September. That's because the franchise will lose a handful of star players and its coach to the World Cup of Hockey. Yes, the KHL schedule is out for 2016-17 and there is no break for the NHL/NHLPA best-on-best tournament.
As first noted by reporter Aivis Kalnins, the lack of break could be a problem for one team in particular.
SKA's roster includes Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeny Dadonov, Vadim Shipachyov and Slava Voynov – all on Russia's World Cup roster. But SKA is also coached by Oleg Znarok, the bench boss for Russia's World Cup team. Not only that, but SKA's star goalie is Mikko Koskinen, who will play for Finland at the tournament.
While Voynov's eligibility for Team Russia was initially denied by the NHL due to his suspension for domestic violence, KHL executive board member and SKA board member Roman Rotenberg says there have been recent talks with Bill Daly and that a decision will be made in the next few days.
Other teams affected by World Cup participation are CSKA Moscow (Ivan Telegin), Avangard Omsk (Czech Republic's Vladimir Sobotka) and Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Finland's Sami Lepisto). There has been talk that Sobotka will re-join the St. Louis Blues, but nothing official has happened yet.
So if you're a gambler, maybe don't bet on SKA to win many games early in the season – which begins Aug. 22. World Cup training camps are expected to begin Sept. 4-5, with exhibition games to follow. Now, the Russians do play an exhibition game in Moscow on Sept. 8, but will players really go back and forth between teams?
On top of the unorthodox World Cup item, the other major KHL schedule news is that the league's first Chinese team, Kunlun Red Star, will make its regular season debut on Sept. 9, against Amur Khabarovsk. And there is also word coming out from Kalnins that the KHL will be expanding to the U.K., with London as the likely destination for the team.
So yeah; never boring when it comes to the KHL.