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What We Learned: Will NHL lockout force star players to KHL?

By Ryan Lambert

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

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So let's just operate under the assumption that there's no way the NHL avoids a work stoppage, and that the players are locked out despite having done nothing wrong under the framework ownership pushed on them seven years ago.

Then what? Granted, it seems no one particularly feels as though the League will miss another entire season as it did last time out; but nonetheless, rumors are already starting to swirl about what might happen if this lasts two weeks or two months.

The obvious answer for many players who find themselves locked out of a job will be to sit at home, skate with some buddies, keep training and wait this thing out. It's been reported in a few places that players will be getting sizable escrow checks soon after the season would have begun, and that will certainly tide more than a few over as they twiddle their thumbs, not collecting cash legally owed to them by their teams' owners.

But some might not have that option, or might want to pursue bigger paychecks overseas. And what happens then?

(Coming Up: Flyers prospect charged with sexual assault; Tyler $eguin and his new contract; Kyle Quincey dabbles in tampering; Dan Bylsma, true patriot; Neuvirth out of context; interesting concussion news; and your winner and loser of the weekend.)

Witness the rumors that Alex Ovechkin will, in the event of a lockout, entertain the idea of returning to Russia to play for Dynamo Moscow. Say what you want about Ovechkin's decline over the last few years (especially you, Michal Neuvirth), but in a league most recently dominated by Alex Radulov and Brandon Bochenski, a player of Ovechkin's quality — and name recognition — would likely lead whoever employs him to dominate most games, and the goals to pile up in a hurry.

When Karri Ramo is the third-best goalie in your league, and Kevin Dallman continues to be one of its two best defensemen, you need all the help you can get.

But Ovechkin heading home for however long the lockout lasts probably wouldn't be a problem. A player of his stature in his homeland would likely be allowed to duck out the second the best league on the planet started playing again, and maybe wouldn't have to do so under cover of night as Evgeni Malkin once did.

Players like Nail Yakupov, on the other hand? Well, that's less certain. A report from a well-known European hockey writer earlier this week stated that his agent, Igor Larionov, believes Yakupov will play in the KHL in the event of a lockout, rather than return to the OHL's Sarnia Sting. This despite having another year of junior eligibility. Can't blame him, really. He's clearly too good to continue playing against children in the OHL and the idea of a sizable payday must be enticing as well. But the question, one supposes, is whether he would have the Ovechkin-like heft to weasel an escape clause into his KHL contract.

Edmonton would be pissed.

The same is apparently also true of guys like Vladimir Tarasenko and Viktor Tikhonov, who were expected to challenge for jobs with their NHL clubs, the Blues and Coyotes, respectively.

Alexander Medvedev, who heads the KHL, has stated to Russian press that the league would not amend its roster rules to allow for more foreign players in the event of an NHL lockout, but that doesn't address the issue of all those Russian- and Eastern European-born players and prospects who would be considered domestic.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Elite League has already ruled that any players who sign contracts with its teams for the lockout would have to stay there the entire season, no out clauses allowed. One suspects that the KHL, and perhaps other leagues in Europe, would not be so stingy in allowing the best players in the world to come to its shores, but that could complicate things when our domestic league returns.

What if a key player for, say, Vancouver, goes and plays a couple games overseas but gets injured? What if guys have trouble escaping their foreign deals and are more or less forced to play in an inferior league when they just wanted to pick up a paycheck?

The problem was one experienced during the NBA lockout last season, when the Knicks' JR Smith injured his knee in his first game for a Chinese team, and had to wait until February to sign back in North America. Now, this isn't a directly analogous situation since the NBA and NHL obviously operate very differently, and Smith was a free agent at the time of his trip to China. Smith, further, is hardly a star, having started just 25 games in the last four seasons.

But does the League really want its players, regardless of quality, held ransom? I wonder how eager the owners would be to get things back under way if it seemed like marketable stars such as Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin were likely to miss the entire season due to a Russian contract.

Don't worry though, gang. If a bunch of star players do go to the KHL, you might get to see them in exhibition games anyway.

Lucky you.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks, along with Disney and the Anaheim Angels, donated $60,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Anaheim to help keep kids enrolled in its programs. That's good stuff.

Boston Bruins: With new contracts in the books for Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner, how does this impact the Bruins' excellent former No. 2 overall pick? Let's just say they're going to have to start spelling his last name "$eguin."

Buffalo Sabres: Perhaps some good news in the event of a prolonged lockout: Darcy Regier said camps would likely be shortened. "Generally players come into training camp in very good shape and we utilize a lot of that time for exhibition games and to evaluate players," he said. "We certainly don't need the full camp if there's a delay."

Calgary Flames: Did Cory Sarich ask for a trade back to his native Winnipeg? "Yes," hoped every Calgary Flames fan.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Calgary Hitmen would very much like it if Victor Rask came back to them for one more season, but the Swedish center, who scored 33 goals last season, wants to take a crack at making the Canes' roster. He might wanna check their depth chart down the middle.

Chicago Blackhawks: "We can be better in some areas, be it special teams and keeping the puck out of our own net," said Joel Quenneville, who was apparently surprised that a team backstopped by Corey Crawford didn't get deeper into the playoffs.

Colorado Avalanche: Kyle Quincey hints he would like to see Detroit pursue Ryan O'Reilly with an offer sheet. Where are the Canucks to cry about tampering?

Columbus Blue Jackets: Kristian Huselius says the Blue Jackets rushed him into the lineup after an injury and that resulted in his re-aggravating his groin. He now won't return the team's phone calls and will wrap his career in Sweden. When it rains in Columbus, it pours.

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Dallas Stars: If there's a lockout, the Dallas Stars would likely suffer financially and in terms of their influence in the area. Making the playoffs would help, but let's be honest here…

Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Speaking of Kyle Quincey, he's really hoping that with Nick Lidstrom and Brad Stuart gone, he can increase his role with the team. Given the current state of the Red Wings' blue line depth, if he can't, well, that would actually be pretty sad.

Edmonton Oilers: Hey all that stuff about Nail Yakupov has a leg infection? Made up. In fact, he recently skated with Taylor Hall and no one stepped on anyone else's face, so things are going great.

Florida Panthers: Panthers single-game tickets went on sale over the weekend, backed by the team's Good Time Guarantee policy. If you go to a game and don't have a good time, you'll get your money back. Given the quality of that team, this seems like a bad, bad idea.

Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown is the 14th-biggest sports star in the LA area. Jonathan Quick, at No. 17, is "perhaps LA's most under-appreciated athlete." Yeah you think? He's behind that snowboard kid and a way-past-it Venus Williams.

Minnesota Wild: Know who's probably most upset about a potential lockout is the Minnesota Wild. "Look how much money we spent this summer, guys!" they're probably screaming.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs recently hired former Bruin and NESN studio analyst Mark Mowers as a pro scout based in New England. "Paranoid Montreal hockey fans don't have to worry about Mowers working as a Bruins double-agent." Was this really a thing that had to be said?

Nashville Predators: I will never get sick of headlines like this.

New Jersey Devils: The Devils want to improve upon last season's performance but if you see them winning or even challenging for the Stanley Cup, I have a hockey team in Glendale to sell you.

New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro went to visit a pit bull puppy who was recently thrown from a moving car, presumably to compare old battle scars. "You got thrown out of a car, little dog? One time, Brent Johnson punched me in the face."

New York Rangers: MSG saw its profits more than triple in the fourth quarter but yeah there definitely needs to be a lockout for sure.

Ottawa Senators: The Sens recently came to terms with No. 15 pick Cody Ceci on a three-year entry-level deal. You'll recall that Ceci was born in Ottawa and played his OHL games for the 67s, so he's probably feeling pretty great about everything.

Philadelphia Flyers: Flyers prospect Nick Cousins and two of his junior teammates were charged with sexual assault over the weekend.

Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 17 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. A tumbleweed just rolled past the Arena.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Dan Bylsma is a true patriot. He spent the weekend at the USA Hockey Coaches Symposium, because he feels it's important for him to impart his considerable coaching wisdom on others in his profession. What a guy.

San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton says the Blues were the "better team" than San Jose last year, which was evident to anyone who watched either play after Ken Hitchcock got hired.

St. Louis Blues: Why wouldn't you want to pay $40 to watch St. Louis Blues luminaries like Scott Mellanby, Tyson Nash and Mike Zuke play in a charity game? It's for charity!

Tampa Bay Lightning: Guy Boucher is volunteering his time as a cook at a Susan G. Komen event. "As for the food, I spend more time at the rink than in the kitchen, but I'm sure everyone will have a great time for an even greater cause," he said. Uh oh.

Toronto Maple Leafs: How much are the Leafs going to have to shelter Nazem Kadri to ensure he gets success this season? To the tune of playing 17 minutes or less a night against weak competition in offensive situations.

Vancouver Canucks: Jason Garrison would really like you to come up with a new nickname for him. The suggestions on the linked page are absolutely abominable.

Washington Capitals: Hey come on now guys, all those true-but-unflattering things Michal Neuvirth said about Ovechkin, Semin and Holtby? Taken out of context, obviously. The context being that he meant them but didn't think the interview would make it back to North America.

Winnipeg Jets: Winnipeg will be able to support the Jets at least through 2035, by which time Evander Kane will have been the subject of roughly 2 trillion more trade rumors.

Gold Star Award

Real interesting story from ESPN about whether the concussion impact tests conducted by every major sports league in North America — including the NHL — actually does anything helpful.

Minus of the Weekend

We're down to just 20 days under the current CBA. Terrible news.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "MVW" might be a Flames fan:

To NJ:

Matt Stajan

Paul Byron

Leland Irving

To Calgary:

Travis Zajac

Great stuff.


I don't need to look past seeing them to get all I need.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.



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