Add Ilya Kovalchuk to the growing chorus of NHL players in the KHL who are prepared to stay in Russia if the owners reduce their salaries in a lockout settlement.
He's made noise about this before, but a recent interview with Sportbox.ru is his most emphatic declaration of independence. From Russia Today, Kovalchuk said:
"I can play in the KHL for the whole year and I'll do it with great pleasure," the Russian explained.
"I am glad that no matter where we play we get a full house and very good support from the spectators. And it's also nice to play in a good team. I'd love to compete in the playoffs for SKA. But if suddenly I'll have to leave for the NHL, I don't think it'll be a big problem for the team as we've got four equal lines."
(Don't worry Jersey: The "full house" comment is probably a reference to having visited Nassau Coliseum several times a season. Yep. That's it. Not a shot at The Rock. Nope.)
As far as protecting the full value of his contract in the NHL, Kovalchuk said:
"Basically, I don't rule out staying in Russia in the case of a reduction of our salaries in the NHL," the player stressed. "I just don't understand why they needed to sign such contracts? Or they were just hoping to cut the percentage later? I believe that the contracts must be respected and this is a fundamental question. There's no way the head of the [NHL Players'] Association and the hockey players will agree on the wage reduction."
Again: We completely side with the players in their efforts to retain the full value of their contracts. They gave away 24 percent several years ago, and since that time the owners have responsibly pissed away the "cost certainty" they shuttered a season to earn. That's not on the players; and the idea that these same owners were negotiating contracts in bad faith, with a salary reduction in mind, is deplorable.
Hence, it was good to see the NHL's last proposal include the "make whole" provision that sought to fully value their contracts. It'll take concessions from both sides to work, but at least it's an effort not to abjectly steal salary from players.
But Kovalchuk railing against the NHL about the full value of his contract is a little unintentionally hilarious, isn't it?
Are the last five years of his 15-year, $100-million contract, in which he'll be paid a whole $10 million, part of the full value the New Jersey Devils need to honor?
Or is "full value" through 2019, when his salary drops to $4 million and everyone expects he'll end up in Russia anyway?
In case anyone needed a reminder that both sides have fun with numbers.