With an impending NHL lockout, more and more stars are going to have to play in Europe. The KHL and other European leagues are not going to accept every player out there so if a player is going to make it overseas, they are going to need to have some star power.
Here are top players that will shore up overseas in the event of an NHL lockout.
Evgeni Malkin is already confirmed to return to the KHL if the NHL does lockout the players this Sunday.
This tweet from TSN Insider Darren Dreger confirms that Malkin and his former teammate Sergei Gonchar could be KHL bound:
If, as most expect, there is a lockout annnounced Saturday. Expect Malkin and Gonchar to be ready to play in Magnitigorsk on Sunday.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) September 12, 2012
Alex Ovechkin is another forward who already has KHL plans and it is something that the Russian forward was looking to avoid.
According to Chuck Gormley, Ovechkin confirmed his plans for a lockout:
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin confirmed on Friday that if there is an NHL lockout he will play in the Kontinental Hockey League.
"We'll see what's going to happen," Ovechkin said following an informal practice with teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington. "No one wants to be in a lockout but if [there is] I'm going to play in the KHL. It's not a surprise. I will go."
The reigning Norris Trophy winner currently doesn't have concrete plans for the lockout but according to Ottawa Sun columnist Bruce Garrioch, a return to the Frolunda Indians of the SEL, could be in the cards for Karlsson:
The ideal location for Karlsson would be the Frolunda Indians, his former club. The issue is the Swedish Elite League has shut the door on NHL players, but that might only be temporary depending on the length of the lockout.
“The second-highest league (the KHL) just (decided to allow NHL players) and it’s tough to say. I don’t know what the talk is over there, but I do think it would be a good thing for the (Swedish) league to look at if it comes to that,” said Karlsson.
A return to Frolunda would benefit Karlsson and the Indians and it could increase their SEL title chances.
Henrik Lundqvist is another European star slated to return to play for the Frolunda Indians if there is a lockout. According to a Swedish news outlet, Lundqvist will return to the team if the entire season is lost.
Lundqvist said that he has talked to his brother Joel, who is the captain of Frolunda, about playing there.
Hank said, via google translate that a lockout “would be boring, but it will be a prolonged conflict, it Frölunda that apply to me.I’ve already talked to my brother Joel to come home and play there.”
Sidney Crosby is the league's top star and injuries have prevented him from making an impact the past few seasons.
The Pittsburgh Penguins' star has decided that if the league is locked out during the 2012-13 season, he will consider playing in Europe:
Asked if he was concerned he would be taking a job away from another player, Crosby said, "Well, no."
"I think everyone has a different opinion about that," he said. "My opinion would be I'm a hockey player. It's a competitive business. Do I look forward to the opportunity of taking someone's job? No. At the end of the day, I'm a hockey player. I think we all work hard and want to play."
The fact that the league's biggest star is considering a stint overseas should send a message to the league.
Pavel Datsyuk is an outstanding NHL player who isn't quite sure of his lockout plans yet but he isn't against weighing options once a lockout is in effect.
"If there's a lockout, then we can talk about (where he will play)," Datsyuk told sovsport.ru. "It is too early to say anything. ... I would like to play on a team that will fight for the (championship)."
The Red Wings' pivot could go to the KHL or he has the availability to play in another league like the SEL if an opportunity presents itself.
If the NHL is locked out, Jaromir Jagr already has his plans and he is already training with his team. It isn't just the team he intends to play for, it is the team Jagr owns.
In an interview with Pavel Lysenkov Jagr explained:
"Right now I am training with HC Kladno, Jagr told Lysenkov. I will play there if there is a lockout in the NHL… It's been a while since I last played in front of my home fans. And I also promised my father that I would play for Kladno. Besides, I am also the owner and the general manager of the team."
Jagr is a talented player who only has a few years left so a lockout would really complicate things.
The Finnish Flash is an aging NHL star that only has a few years left in his career so a lockout really would hurt the rest of his career.
If the league does lockout the players, according to Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register, Selanne would consider a return to Jokerit:
"One of my best buddies [Jarmo Kekalainen] is the GM for them," Selanne said. "Let’s see. I say that I want to think about it. Let’s see how things go and we’ll see.
"Obviously I know there’s a spot for me if I want to go. Like I said, I’m still optimistic but it doesn’t look good."
David Krejci is a Czech Republic native but played hockey in Canada growing up. In the event of a lockout, Krejci has already been contacted by a few teams from his homeland:
"I never thought it would be when I was 26 [years old]," Krejci said. "A few teams have already contacted me from the Czech Republic. I would definitely go there. I wouldn’t go to any other countries. If they’re going to say there’s a lockout on Saturday, I’m not going to leave on Sunday or Monday. I haven’t given any [Czech] teams my word yet. My first priority is here, but then I’ll start making some decisions after that. There are so many things that go into picking a team."
Krejci is a talented forward who has a whole career ahead of him so a lockout wouldn't impact him as much, but he would prefer to play in the NHL.
Ilya Kovalchuk has been linked the KHL in a report by THN and it would make sense. The Russian superstar spends most of the offseason in Russia and going to the KHL would be a seamless transition.
Kovalchuk has played in Russia before and he was a member of HC Spartak Moscow before they were a member of the KHL.
Scott Hartnell recently signed a lengthy extension with the Philadelphia Flyers but he could end up playing overseas for a team he has an ownership stake in.
According to a report by Crossing Broad:
Hartnell is part-owner of Kalpa, along with ex Flyer Sami Kapanen and Kimmo Timonen.
If the report is true and he does play overseas in Finland, it would makes sense for Hartnell because he would be in an environment he is comfortable in.
The transition would then become easier for him and he would be more successful in a non-NHL environment.
Timonen is currently recovering from injury. If the entire season is lost, it would make sense for him to get back into game shape playing with his own team.
Martin Brodeur is the NHL's goaltender with the most wins of all time. If there is no NHL hockey to be played, he will consider taking refuge overseas in Europe to continue his hockey career.
Brodeur spoke with Mark Everson of the New York Post and he explained that he would consider playing overseas in the event of an NHL lockout:
"Yes, but not right away," Martin Brodeur told The Post.
Brodeur only has a few years left in his hockey career so it makes sense that he wouldn't waste a full year in the event of a year-long lockout.
Philly's Claude Giroux also indicated he will find a place to play if there is a lockout. #NHL
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) September 11, 2012
Claude Giroux is coming off his best season in his young NHL career and in the event of a lockout, he will find somewhere to play.
It isn't that clear where he would go play but it could mean that he is looking for a place to bunker down and play some NHL'13, a game he happens to be on the cover of.
All kidding aside, I wouldn't be surprised if Scott Hartnell or Jaromir Jagr attempt to recruit their pal to play for their respective teams in the event of a lockout.
CSN Washington provided a breakdown of where NHL stars currently on the Washington Capitals could play during the lockout.
Here is what they had to say about Nicklas Backstrom:
Backstrom has ties to the SEL having spent parts of three seasons with Brynas IF Gavle from 2005-07. Given Backstrom’s concussion last season and the Caps long-term investment in their No.1 center (signed through 2019-20), it might be in everyone’s best interest if just waits patiently for the lockout to end.
The last line would make a ton of sense if the players were only locked out for a short portion of time. However, if the entire season is lost, I can't imagine Backstrom not returning home.
Like Sidney Crosby, both Henrik and Daniel Sedin would consider playing in Europe only if the entire season was lost.
Here is what Henrik Sedin had to say in an interview with the Vancouver Province:
Henrik Sedin said the twins would consider playing in their hometown of Ornskoldsvik for Modo manager Markus Naslund, but it’s a last resort.
"If they cancel the whole season, we may go back and play over there. But until then, we will stay here."
"We’re going to stay in shape. We’re going to work out. We’re going to be on the ice and we’ll go from there."
No one wants to see a season lost but it would be fun to see the Sedin brothers go tear it up in their native hometown in Sweden.
Martin St.Louis won't take the year off if there is a lockout and it appears he could head back to Europe, potentially Switzerland where he played during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
St. Louis told the Tampa Bay Times:
"With my age, you want to keep playing. I don't want to take a year off. If the NHL wants to shut us down, we'll go play somewhere else."
In the same report, star pivot Steven Stamkos echoed similar sentiments:
"Definitely thought about it if there is an extended lockout," the center wrote in a text message.
The Tampa Bay Lightning improved a lot this summer so it will really be a bummer for the team if the 2012-13 season is lost.