NHL Lockout: Will More Players Sign Full Season Contracts to Play Overseas?
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With the NHL lockout now 23 days old, the question as to how long this lockout will last will continue to force players to make decisions about what they are going to do this season. With over 100 NHL players already signed to play anywhere from Russia to Switzerland, the number could grow if the NHL decides to cancel more games.
With all games through October 24 canceled, there will be no hockey played in the NHL until that date, at least. If the lockout continues and the league cancels more games past that date, more players might decide to cross the Atlantic and play the game they love.
If the lockout continues into January and it appears that the NHL will once again lose an entire season, even more players will find their way overseas. If Donald Fehr and the leaders of the NHLPA are insistent and the NHL owners don't budge, players are going to have to earn their money elsewhere.
The other thing to consider is the "Russian Factor." With the Olympics taking place in Sochi, Russia in 2014, Russian NHLer's might decide to play at home for the duration of this season and possibly into the 2013-14 season.
While it's extremely unlikely that the lockout would stretch into next season, Russians who want to play in the Olympics might stay there for the next season. That has to be one of the reasons that Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov decided to sign a two-year deal to stay in Russia.
While the NHL will more than likely have NHLers participate in the Olympics, some Russians might not want to take that chance.
Also, restricted free agents could also take advantage of their contract status and sign full-season contracts that have a specific out-clause in the contract. Toronto Maple Leaf Cody Franson signed with Brynas of the Swedish Elite League for the full season. It is presumable that he will be able to leave if he comes to terms with the Leafs once the lockout ends.
RFAs like P.K. Subban and Ryan O'Reilly could follow that lead to earn a paycheck.
As for reasons why players would not want to sign overseas, player solidarity in the lockout is among the most prevalent. Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan had this to say about his decision to stay on this side of the Atlantic, via Courier Post Online:
"I'm going to continue to skate with the guys... Whether it's coming back here (to South Jersey) for a couple weeks at a time. I think it's important to stay here (in the United States) and be part of the solution and not just run from it... I'm going to handle things the way I think things should be handled."
If the players want to show that they are really together in this lockout, going to play in Europe is not the best way to show it. The group of players that show up to meetings getting smaller will only show the owners that the players are the weaker side of the two.
While the majority of the bigger stars in the NHL have already signed, there are a couple that could still move, Sidney Crosby being the biggest name on the list. He and other stars will be the only names that will be signing in Europe, but even then, it won't be for a full season.
Teams in Europe for the most part aren't even interested in bringing in depth players so they don't even have the choice to sign full-season contracts.
Basically, the odds are that we won't see any more full-season contacts being signed by NHLers in Europe. There is the possibility, but NHLers are NHLers for a reason and they don't want to take the chance that they will have to play a full season in a league they don't want to play in any longer.
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