New York Hockey: KHL

Sykora one of five players on tryout with Devils

September, 12, 2011
34-year-old Czech winger Petr Sykora, who won a Stanley Cup Championship with New Jersey in 2000, is one of five players who will attend Devils training camp on a tryout, a team spokesperson confirmed.

Joining Sykora on the Devils' tryout list are forwards Steve Bernier, Thomas Nesbitt and Justin Barnett and defenseman Anton Stralman.

Sykora played seven seasons with the Devils from 1995-2002 before stints with other NHL teams including Anaheim, New York (Rangers), Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Minnesota.

Most recently, the former Devil spent the 2010-11 season playing in Europe; the Plzen, CZE native played 13 games with hometown team Plzen HC and 28 games with the Dynamo Minsk of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

End near for Kovalchuk saga (Or is it?)

September, 1, 2010
By 5 p.m. ET today we’ll finally have a verdict from the NHL regarding Ilya Kovalchuk’s latest contract. While the ruling will bring closure to this chapter of the seemingly endless saga of Kovalchuk’s free agency, the fallout will just be beginning.

If the contract is approved, it will start a chain reaction of roster moves so the Devils can shed approximately $3 million in salary cap space to get under the NHL’s $59.4M ceiling.

If the contract is denied, the NHL Players Association will have five days to -- again -- file for arbitration on behalf of Kovalchuk.

Should the deal be struck down a second time, Kovalchuk could also elect to play in his native Russia in the Kontinental Hockey League. That season starts Sept. 8 and he would not have to worry about contract disputes there. After all, the president of the team most likely to sign him (SKA St. Petersburg) is also the president of the league.

If Kovalchuk does go to the KHL, it’s been previously reported that he’d stay there for at least one season.

One other possibility today: The NHL could also choose not to observe the 5 p.m. deadline and let it pass without a decision, which would automatically register the contract under the CBA. Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record has reported the league will render a verdict, however.

Though the Devils have previously stated their confidence this contract will meet the league’s approval, Gulitti points out two potential sticking points:
“... the contract expires when Kovalchuk would be 42. The NHL pointed out in the grievance hearing on Kovalchuk’s first contract that only six players in the last 20 years played to the age of 42.

The other potential sticking point is the three consecutive seasons at $1 million in Years 11, 12 and 13. After that, Kovalchuk would make $7 million in the final two years of the contract—if he played it out until its end. But, those three consecutive seasons at $1 million create a clear transition point in the deal from the first 10 years to the last five.”

The average of those final years is still higher than other long-term contracts previously accepted by the NHL. Should the league void this contract offer, it may signal future problems for other teams with lengthy, low-cap-hit deals on the books, such as the Chicago Blackhawks and their pact with Marian Hossa.

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A Fehrful day in the NHL; Kovy update

August, 27, 2010
FDR famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Well, yesterday’s developments in the NHL may have altered the spelling slightly to F-E-H-R.

The hockey media responded to reports that former MLBPA leader Donald Fehr will soon take over the NHL players association with much trepidation yesterday. The players association has been rudderless since the middle-of-the-night axing of Paul Kelly.

Unlike baseball, whose players association is strong like bull, the NHLPA has been seen as weak and its membership disinterested since the 2004-05 lockout. Fehr’s veteran leadership should change that, which is fueling concerns of another labor stoppage in the NHL after the current collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the 2011-12 season.

ESPN’s Scott Burnside writes that the recommendation in favor of Fehr by the search committee, which included Fehr himself, seems a little too convenient.

Devils fans longing to see Ilya Kovalchuk skate in Newark had even more to fear yesterday, as a report from Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov states that if the Devils cannot get a contract approved by the NHL in the next 24-48 hours, Kovalchuk could decide to spend next season in the KHL.

Yuri Nikolaev, Kovalchuk’s agent in Russia, said he had spoken to KHL team SKA St. Petersburg and that a decision will come Friday, according to Sovetsky Sport (via Fire and Ice). It’s been previously reported that SKA St. Petersburg would allow Kovalchuk to name his terms if he came to the KHL. With that kind of offer, Kovalchuk could be kissing his own miniature giraffe by tomorrow night.

Chesnokov allows that it could be bargaining bluster, but to what end? It’s not as though the Russian requires better terms from the Devils. And it’s unlikely that a second suitor from the NHL will jump in at this stage. Particularly since the Los Angeles Kings, Kovalchuk’s other most likely landing spot, just inked D Willie Mitchell for $7 million over two years. The words may be intended to pressure the NHL into softening their stance on Kovy’s contract, but if the NHL is serious about stopping salary cap circumvention, they have little choice but to stand their ground.

Should make for an interesting Friday.

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