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Hartnett: NHL Stars Bolting For Europe, Expecting Long Lockout

By Sean Hartnett
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We're just three days into the NHL lockout and already, droves of NHL stars are flocking to Europe.

Ilya Kovalchuk was one of the first departing NHL big-name stars to sign-on the dotted line with a European club.  Kovalchuk agreed a contract with SKA Saint Petersburg on Sunday, joining one of the best-supported teams of the Kontinental Hockey League.

Kovalchuk named SKA captain

On Tuesday, Kovalchuk was presented in front of the KHL media and held up a SKA jersey with the captain's letter 'C' stitched into the fabric.

Ilya Kovalchuk
(credit: Twitter/@khl_rus)

Fans of the New Jersey Devils were expecting Kovalchuk to replace outgoing captain Zach Parise. Devils fans were looking forward to seeing Kovalchuk holding up a jersey with a 'C' stitched above the Devils' horned logo alongside Lou Lamoriello.  That presentation will have to wait for some time as Kovalchuk and a growing number of superstars are prepared for a long stay in Europe.

Malkin and Gonchar join Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Ovechkin's situation unclear

Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and Ottawa Senators' defenseman Sergei Gonchar have signed deals with KHL club Metallurg Magnitogorsk.  The duo were teammates for four seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar
Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar have joined Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL. (credit: Twitter/@khl_rus)

Alexander Ovechkin is yet to sign a contract with an KHL team.  It is unclear whether he will re-join former club Dynamo Moscow or another KHL club.  KHL champions Dynamo Moscow appear to be the front-runners to sign Ovechkin as he is an official advisor to the club and former Washington Capitals' teammate Sergei Fedorov is the team's general manager.

Ovechkin's agent, Gleb Chistyakov confirmed both Dynamo and CSKA Moscow are negotiating to sign the Captials' superstar.

"CSKA and Dynamo Moscow have interest in us. The negotiations are still ongoing.  There's nothing concrete that can be disclosed to the news wire," Chistyakov told Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo.

Any team wishing to sign Ovechkin will need to pay roughly $100,000 dollars in insurance per month.

Nash and Thornton re-join HC Davos

Rick Nash and Joe Thornton have agreed deals to join former club HC Davos of the Swiss National League A.  Fans of the New York Rangers are eager to see their star summer acquisition in action, but will have to settle for watching him over internet streams from Switzerland.

Nash and Thornton played for Davos during the 2004-05 lockout season.  Thornton didn't hold back his feelings when speaking to Dave Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News. "It sucks leaving here, but I've still got to play," Thornton stated.

Hagelin nearing deal to play in Swedish Second Division

Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period believes Rangers' winger Carl Hagelin is close to agreeing a deal with Swedish Division II club Mora IK.

Under current circumstances, Sweden's top Elitserien league will only accept players on full-year contract.  Hagelin and others wishing to play in Sweden will have to settle for signing for second division HockeyAllsvenskan clubs or commit to a full season in the Elitserien.

Mass exodus just beginning

As the weeks go on, plenty of deals including Ovechkin's are likely to be confirmed.  Sidney Crosby's agents have reached out to Metallurg Magnitogorsk.  Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings is nearing a decision to sign with a KHL club.

Crosby was one of the players who appeared in an NHLPA video message to the fans of the NHL.

A message from Players to Fans about the NHL Lockout by NHLPA on YouTube

The mass exodus of NHL stars to Europe will continue to grow while the NHL and NHLPA continue to avoid one another.

A few quick hits:

New York Islanders' captain Mark Streit signed for SC Bern of the Swiss League on Monday.  Lubomir Visnovsky filed a grievance against his trade to the Islanders, but an arbitrator ruled in favor of the Isles.  For now, Visnovsky will play for Slovan Bratislava.

Ex-Ranger Ruslan Fedotenko agreed to join HC Donbass of the KHL.  Fedotenko signed for the Philadelphia Flyers during the offseason.  Dallas Stars' winger and former Rangers' captain Jaromir Jagr will play for HC Kladno of the Czech Extraliga.  Jagr also serves as president of the club.

Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.

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