- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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But just where the North American-born stars will end up always provides more intrigue.
Eight years ago, during the previous NHL lockout, Joe Thornton enjoyed playing in Davos, Switzerland -- heck, he met his wife there -- and it should surprise no one that he’s headed there again.
"Yes, just because my wife is from there, she has a home there, we go there five weeks in the summer to see her family and I actually train with Davos when I’m over there," Thornton told ESPN.com over the phone Monday. "I know the team real well, and they know me. It’s a natural fit for me to go back there and play."
Thornton said he’s planning on flying to Switzerland by the end of the week and could play as early as this weekend.
"Hopefully the lockout ends sooner rather than later, but I have to go play," said the San Jose Sharks captain.
Rick Nash joined Thornton in Davos last time around and appears to be doing so again, sources told ESPN.com's Katie Strang. They both had a blast eight years ago, making the most of the lockout.
"If you find the right spot, it can be a real good experience, you meet some nice people and you get to keep playing hockey," Thornton said. "It worked out well for us I thought."
Other big names we checked on Monday:
Of course, you have to start with Sidney Crosby, who told us last week playing overseas was something he was contemplating depending on how long the lockout lasted. Nothing new as of Monday. "Since the question is repeatedly asked about Sidney’s plan to play in Europe now that the lockout in is play, at this time Sidney will continue his training, however, if this status (lockout) continues, he may be exploring other options, but for the moment there is nothing to report," Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, told ESPN.com via email.
Star center Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers told ESPN.com via text message that he’s unsure of his plans. "I just want to play hockey," Giroux said. "Hopefully the NHL is back very soon, if not I'll have to start thinking of another place to play."
New York Rangers star Brad Richards, via text, told ESPN.com that playing overseas was unlikely at the moment, preferring to focus on his workouts on this side of the ocean. But obviously that can change depending on the length of the lockout.
Sharks center Logan Couture told ESPN.com via text that he's likely headed to Geneva of the Swiss League. The deal wasn't done yet Monday but that's where he was hopeful to end up.
Agent Jarrett Bousquet, who along with Kevin Epp at Titan Sports Management negotiated a whopping $110 million, 14-year deal for Shea Weber, told ESPN.com on Monday that playing overseas at this point was an unlikely option for his client, citing costly insurance. The good thing for Weber, by the way, is that his $13 million signing bonus is already in the bank and can’t be touched by the lockout.
Weber’s old defense partner, Minnesota Wild star Ryan Suter, is also staying put for now. Suter’s agent, Neil Sheehy, said via email that Europe was an unlikely option at this point, although it was too early to call.
For so many of these high-end players, insurance is such a factor. For KHL-bound Evgeni Malkin, for example, a source told ESPN.com that he’ll need to pay about $250,000 per year for two years’ worth of coverage on his $9 million salary, although it’s believed the premiums will be paid monthly and can be cancelled without penalty once the NHL lockout is over.
Still, it’s a huge chunk of change and that’s why NHL stars will tread carefully before heading over. Remember, as I wrote in Friday’s blog about the rules of the lockout, an NHL team has the right to suspend a player without pay once the NHL season resumes until he’s fit to play if he injures himself while playing in another league during the lockout.
Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and a list of other Russian and European NHLers, as expected, have found temporary lockout homes in their home countries.