NHL Lockout: Steven Stamkos and 9 Players Who Could Make Bank in the KHL

Ryan DavenportContributor ISeptember 24, 2012

NHL Lockout: Steven Stamkos and 9 Players Who Could Make Bank in the KHL

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    For NHL stars, if the lockout continues much longer, they will be forced to seek employment elsewhere. 

    Fortunately for them, there are a number of quality leagues in Europe that would love to have them, and many would be suitable landing spots for some of the world's best players. 

    With all due respect to the Swedish, Finnish and Swiss leagues, the KHL is widely considered to be the best league outside of North America, but due to strict limitations on import players, there are only so many roster spots available for foreign-born NHLers. 

    However, for the top players in the game, that won't matter, as every KHL team would jump at the opportunity to grab a top-flight North American player, and would pay handsomely to do so. 

    Here are a few of the best available players who could cash in on lucrative short-term deals in the KHL. 

John Tavares

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    In just three seasons, John Tavares has established himself as one of the league's most dangerous offensive threats, and has progressed impressively since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2009. 

    As a highly skilled player with unquestionably superior on-ice vision, Tavares would be an intriguing rental for many of Russia's wealthiest clubs. 

    Considering how critical a player's first five seasons are at the professional level, Tavares will undoubtedly be looking for somewhere to play if the lockout drags on, and if money is a priority for him, Russia will be at the top of his wish list. 

Phil Kessel

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    After enjoying a career year in 2011-12, Phil Kessel won't want to go too long without taking to the ice for games, and if he opts to go overseas for the year, the Russian style of play would fit his strengths perfectly. 

    A speedster with nifty hands and a lightning-quick release, Kessel would have more room to operate on the European ice, which is why basically any KHL team would love to acquire the Wisconsin native's services. 

    The Maple Leafs star is currently taking a wait-and-see approach to the lockout, but if the puck doesn't drop on the NHL season soon, he'd be an extremely attractive prize for teams looking to add a big name with world-class skills to their offense. 

Mike Green

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    As one of the most talented offensive blueliners in the game, the Caps' Mike Green is more than capable of making a smooth transition to the skill-heavy Russian style of play. 

    After two injury-plagued seasons, Green can't afford to miss out on another year of hockey, so it appears likely that he'll be searching for a temporary home if a new CBA isn't hammered out soon. 

    Considering he's always been close with fellow Capital and current Moscow Dynamo forward Alex Ovechkin, wouldn't it make sense that Dynamo would take a run at the two-time First Team All-Star? Any power play featuring Green and Ovechkin at the points is a unit the opposition has to respect, and the two have demonstrated an innate chemistry with one another in the past. 

Claude Giroux

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    One of the breakout stars of the 2011-12 campaign, Claude Giroux has quickly become one of the most popular players in the game, and though the rest of the hockey world may not yet fully appreciate the young Flyer's skills, he'd be a top draw in the KHL. 

    With vision and playmaking abilities that will translate to points in any league, Giroux could immediately become one of the KHL's top offensive catalysts. 

    Whether or not he wants to make the trip to Russia will likely depend on how long negotiations drag on, but if he should choose to pursue Russia as an option, he'll have no shortage of suitors. 

James Neal

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    If James Neal wants to be as productive when the NHL resumes play as he was in 2011-12, his best course of action may be to follow running mate Evgeni Malkin to the KHL, because he reached new heights alongside the star pivot in his first season in Pittsburgh. 

    Neal would be an attractive target for Metallurg Magnitogorsk this season, because if the club hopes to capture their first KHL championship, the deadly partnership of Neal and Malkin would be difficult to top. 

    No, Neal might not be as big a name as some of the other North American stars currently on the market, but seeing as NHL stars enjoyed varying degrees of success during the last NHL lockout, his chemistry with Malkin should be weighed heavily by the team's management if Neal expressed interest in heading to Russia. 

Corey Perry

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    Despite a subpar 2011-12 campaign, as the 2010 Hart Trophy winner, Corey Perry isn't far removed from being considered arguably the best player in the game. 

    After a dreadful season for Perry and the Ducks, the former London Knights scoring sensation will want to be back playing meaningful hockey soon, which is why he should begin to consider playing overseas within the next few weeks. 

    Though Perry may not be able to play as physical a game on the big ice, a 50-goal man like Perry is a player any team would be more than happy to have. 

    With a Stanley Cup, Hart and Olympic Gold already in the bag, wouldn't a Gagarin Cup be a nice addition to Perry's already crowded trophy case? 

Steven Stamkos

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    Since Alex Ovechkin went from being a consistent 50- to 60-goal man to a 30-goal scorer, Steven Stamkos has taken over as the game's top sniper. 

    Because of this, Stamkos would earn top dollar in the KHL, where deep-pocketed owners have been known to pay a hefty premium for world-class scorers. 

    After notching 60 goals in 2011-12, Stamkos is arguably the hottest North American player in the game, so if he expresses even the slightest inkling of interest in playing in Russia, he'll get offers faster than you can say Rocket Richard. 

Jonathan Toews

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    As arguably the most decorated hockey player at every level of play since Scott Niedermayer, Jonathan Toews has virtually every piece of hardware an aspiring young star could dream of. 

    That being said, Toews has an infectious sense of competitiveness, and one has to believe that if the lockout drags on, he'll get the urge to take the trip across the Atlantic to play in the best league in the world outside of North America. 

    Recently, Toews said (via SBNation) that he'll be "playing hockey," lockout or not. If that's the case, expect captain serious to head east, and sign on with a big-market KHL team. He may actually make more money there than he does with the Blackhawks. 

Drew Doughty

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    After leading the L.A. Kings to the franchise's first Stanley Cup, Drew Doughty is now in the discussion when it comes to best defenseman in the game. He may not possess Shea Weber's shot, Erik Karlsson's speed or Ryan Suter's contract, but Doughty is a winner. 

    As a 20-year-old in 2010, Doughty was an integral piece of Team Canada's gold medal-winning team in Vancouver, playing top-pairing minutes despite only being in his second NHL season. 

    Now, after having won the two biggest championships in the game today, Doughty should have his sights set on winning his first Norris Trophy, because he certainly has the talent, instincts and athleticism to do so. 

    If he hopes to put together his first 50-point campaign since 2009-10, he may have to do so in the KHL. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for the All-Star rearguard, because on a bigger ice surface, Doughty's wheels and slick hands would give him an advantage over most defensemen. 

Sidney Crosby

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    As things stand today, though Sidney Crosby isn't committed to playing overseas during the lockout, TSN.ca says he'll certainly explore that option if the lockout continues through the next few months. 

    Despite his repeated concussion issues, Crosby is without a doubt the most dynamic player in the game when healthy, and would sell tickets as well as anyone currently playing in the KHL. 

    TSN also said that fellow Penguins' star Evgeni Malkin has been working on getting Crosby to join him with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, and needless to say, they would be the most prolific duo in the KHL's short history. 

    Insurance and health issues aside, if Crosby chooses to make the transition to the KHL, he should receive a deal similar to the one that rival Alex Ovechkin signed with Moscow Dynamo this week, which is said to be worth a handsome $6 million for the season.