4 NHL Players Who Signed with Foreign Teams and Won't Return After the Lockout
Now that the NHL lockout is in full effect, players are starting to sign overseas in droves. Yet, how many of them will stay there once a deal is reached? The answer might surprise you.
There are numerous reasons why NHL players agree to take their services across the Atlantic. For a lot of them, it's a chance to return home. It gets them closer to friends and family, and although the pay might not be as good, it's hardly like they're playing for peanuts.
Another draw is simple boredom. It gives these players an opportunity to stay on the ice full-time, which keeps them in shape while they wait for an update on the labor dispute.
Normally the competition in these leagues isn't NHL-caliber. But with so many players looking for a stopgap, that will change.
The NHL and NBA are unique in that they offer their players a lucrative alternative to just sitting at home. It means sometimes those leagues' teams end up battling the foreign teams over who has the rights to the player.
Let's take a look at four players who have already signed deals to play overseas and won't return once the lockout ends.
1. Ruslan Fedotenko
There's going to be a common theme with each of these players—they're all aging veterans. No one in the prime of their career, no matter what their nationality, is going to abandon millions and a shot to play for a Stanley Cup.
We start with Ruslan Fedotenko. He signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers in July. He's set to suit up for HC Donbass of the KHL while the lockout ensues.
Fedotenko has already won two Cups, with Tampa Bay in 2004 and with Pittsburgh in 2009. He was an integral part of both of those runs, especially in '04 when he had 12 goals for the Lightning in the playoffs.
However, his production has gone down in each of the last three years. He's at best a fourth-liner on the Flyers once the NHL resumes play.
So it's not hard imagining the Ukrainian staying in Europe for the rest of his career and making at or around the same amount of money the Flyers gave him.
2. Sergei Gonchar
Next up is Sergei Gonchar of the Ottawa Senators. Unlike Fedotenko, he's been in the upper echelon of his position since the mid-90s.
Gonchar's accomplishments are impressive. He's tied with Sergei Zubov for most seasons of 10 or more goals by a Russian defenseman at 11.
For a nine-year span between 2000 and 2010 (no season in '04-'05), he was second to only Nicklas Lidstrom for total points and assists by a defenseman. Gonchar also won a Cup as Fedotenko's teammate on the Penguins in '09.
He has nothing left to prove and could retire tomorrow with borderline Hall of Fame numbers. Gonchar is signed with Metallurg of the KHL while the lockout continues. He played with them previously during the last work stoppage.
When taking into account his age (38), reduced production in the last two seasons and the familiarity he has with his "new" team, Gonchar seems as likely a candidate as anyone to stay right where he is once an agreement is made.
3. Jaromir Jagr
The most prominent player likely to stay put and not return to the NHL is Jaromir Jagr. He already has a track record of doing exactly that.
After the 2007-08 season with the New York Rangers, Jagr bolted for the KHL. He played with Avangard Omsk for three seasons before returning to the NHL last year with the Flyers.
He signed a free-agent deal over the summer with the Dallas Stars. He's currently set to play for Kladno (his hometown) in the Czech league during the NHL's hiatus.
Jagr is revered in his home country, and for good reason. He sits in eighth place all-time in career points, and has more goals, assists and points than any other European-trained player. No. 68 also helped the Czech's win a gold medal at the 1998 Olympics.
Jagr was lucky enough to win back-to-back Cups with the Penguins in his first two NHL seasons.
All of this leads us to believe that Jagr will remain with Kladno even after the lockout is over. How many people could resist playing in their hometown in front of fans who consider you a national hero?
4. Lubomir Visnovsky
Lubomir Visnovsky is the only one of these four to have never won a Cup. The Slovakian defenseman also didn't start his NHL career until he was 24.
Always known as an offensive blueliner, Visnovsky had a career season with the Anaheim Ducks in 2010-11, finishing with 18 goals and 68 points.
Those numbers fell considerably last year to only five goals and 27 points. The Ducks subsequently traded him to the New York Islanders this past June.
Visnovsky's situation is unique because he's trying to fight the trade. According to Arthur Staple of Newsday, he filed a grievance with the NHLPA claiming the no-trade clause he had in his contract with the Edmonton Oilers still stands. That's because it was never invoked when he was traded to the Ducks.
Without assuming Visnovsky doesn't want to play for the Islanders, it's still an indication he's not necessarily pleased with the deal. He signed with Slovan Bratislava of the KHL as the lockout proceeds, and his entire situation points towards him staying there even when play resumes.