NHL: 13 Players Who Could Stay Overseas, Even If the NHL Comes Back Soon

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor INovember 20, 2012

NHL: 13 Players Who Could Stay Overseas, Even If the NHL Comes Back Soon

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    With the NHL lockout dragging on, more than 100 hockey players have headed to Europe to stay in shape and earn some money while their regular employers refuse to let them play.

    At the beginning of the lockout, Russian-born winger Alex Ovechkin said if the lockout drags on too long, and the NHL's pay cuts are too steep, he and a number of other players may just decide to stay in Europe.

    While this was more or less an empty threat for most players who have long-term contracts, even European-born ones, there are some players who may try to stay closer to home if the circumstances are right.

    Here is a look at 13 players who may be thinking about such a move. Again, remember in the case of players with long-term contracts, this is most likely lockout rhetoric.

    If you feel I left somebody out, feel free to add to the list or comment on the people I included. Keep in mind that only a very small number of these players may actually move.

Nik Antropov

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    Antropov is in a strange situation. This is the last season of his deal with the Winnipeg Jets, and he has a cap hit of slightly more than $4 million.

    The 32-year-old native of Kazakhstan has seen his goal production drop each of the last three years and was relegated to a fourth-line role last season by the Jets.

    If the lockout lasts long enough or the NHL's proposed pay cut is too steep, it might make sense for Antropov to stay with Barys Astana of the KHL. He would be closer to home, see more ice time and get his confidence back.

    He would then be free to either stay in the KHL next year or see if any NHL team offers him a better deal. Based on his falling production, they may not.

Ruslan Fedotenko

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    Ruslan Fedotenko is a native of the Ukraine. Like Antropov, he is in his 30s and his role on NHL teams has been reduced.

    In his prime with Tampa Bay, Fedotenko was a regular second or third line contributor who could be counted on for 15 to 20 goals per season. In recent years, however, his ice time has been reduced and his offensive contributions have also been cut back.

    After spending the past two seasons with the Rangers, Fedotenko signed a one-year deal with the Flyers with a cap hit of $1.75 million.

    If the lockout drags on and the NHL tries to introduce an across-the-board salary reduction, it may not be worth it for Fedotenko to return to the Flyers. He could play closer to home with his current KHL team, HC Donbass, and probably get more ice time and, after taxes, nearly the same amount of money.

    It is unclear what Fedotenko will do. A lot will depend on when and how the lockout is settled.

Jakub Kindl

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    Jakub Kindl is another player in the final year of his NHL contract. The 25-year-old native of the Czech Republic has returned home during the lockout to play for HC Pardubice.

    Kindl should be assuming a larger role on the Detroit blue line, but he is only scheduled to have a cap hit of $883,333 this season and would want a substantial raise to stay in North America next season.

    If the lockout cancels the entire NHL season and lowers salaries, it is possible (although not likely) that Kindl would stay at home to play hockey next year. That's  something the Red Wings could ill afford as they try to replace Nicklas Lidstrom.

Lubomir Visnovsky

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    Veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky was traded to the New York Islanders on draft day.

    During the lockout, the 36-year-old Slovak has been playing with Bratislava Slovan of the KHL. He is in the final year of his contract with the Isles and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer anyway.

    If Visnovsky wants to stay closer to home, it is possible he will stay in Europe next year, especially if the 2012-13 NHL season is a washout.

Wojtek Wolski

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    Wojtek Wolski has been an enigma since entering the NHL in 2005-06. He's clearly a talented player and has already scored more than 20 goals in two different seasons.

    But injuries and inconsistent play have slowed down the 26-year-old Pole. His goal total hasn't topped 12 in his last three NHL campaigns.

    Wolski signed a one-year, $600,000 contract with the Capitals this summer. During the lockout, Wolski is playing in his native Poland to stay in shape.

    If Wolski gets a lucrative offer from a KHL team next season, it is possible he will decide to stay in Europe, where he can get more ice time and have bigger rinks to skate on, rather than return to the NHL where he has been reduced to a role player.

Jaromir Jagr

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    One thing should be obvious to most hockey fans: it wouldn't be a shock if Jaromir Jagr decides to return to Europe after the lockout ends, because he already spent three seasons in the KHL before returning to North America to join the Flyers last season.

    This summer, Jagr signed a one-year, $4.55 million contract to play for the Dallas Stars. Right now, he is playing for Kladno in his native Czech Republic.

    If the lockout drags on too long or cancels the NHL season altogether, don't be surprised to see him stay in Europe, either in the Czech league or the KHL.

Sergei Gonchar

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    Like many other players on this list, Senators' defenseman Sergei Gonchar is in the final year of his contract.

    The 38-year-old Russian is spending the lockout with Metallurg of the KHL. The longer the lockout lasts. the more he may consider staying in Russia, especially if he was uncertain about remaining in North America next season.

Sergei Kostitsyn

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    Sergei Kostitsyn is one of the players who has been outspoken about the lockout.

    The Predators' forward said it would actually be better for the players if the season were canceled, and that if this happened, he would simply stay in Russia for the rest of the 2012-13 campaign.

    It almost sounds as if Kostitsyn would be happier closer to his native Belarus. His brother already returned to the KHL, which is where Sergei is playing during the lockout.

    Sergei is under contract to the Predators for this year and 2013-14, which may make it tougher for him to play in Europe when the lockout finally does end.

Marek Zidlicky

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    There are many reasons Marek Zidlicky may stay in the Czech Republic after the lockout ends.

    He's 35 years old and clearly on the downside of what has been a solid NHL career. This is also the final season of Zidlicky's deal with the Devils, which expires at the end of this season.

    Add in the fact that Zidlicky's style of play is not a great fit with the Devils' defense-first philosophy, and it is unlikely he will stay in New Jersey after this season anyway.

    As his career winds down, it's possible Zidlicky will want to stay closer to home. Depending on the possible pay cut in the new CBA, he may be able to make nearly as much money in the KHL or Czech league.

Michal Rozsival

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    Veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival is another candidate to stay in Europe after the lockout ends. The longer the work stoppage lasts, the more likely he is to leave the NHL for good.

    Rozsival is now 34 and signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks just before the lockout started.

    He is clearly a veteran depth player in the NHL at this point in his career, most likely to play on the third pair barring any injuries on the Chicago blue line.

    He is presently playing in his native Czech Republic. If he stays there or goes to the KHL, he may come close to making the $2 milllion (minus across-the-board pay cuts) that Chicago will pay him.

Patrick O'Sullivan

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    Patrick O'Sullivan is different from most of the players on this list. He's Canadian, and at 27, he's in the prime of his career.

    But unlike the rest of the players on this list, O'Sullivan doesn't have a contract with an NHL team.

    The Coyotes didn't ink O'Sullivan to a new deal before the lockout started, and now he's playing in Finland.

    If he likes it there and doesn't get a solid NHL offer, it's possible O'Sullivan remains in Europe, where he could play a larger on-ice role than he would in North America.

Michael Frolik

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    Michael Frolik has been a bit of a disappointment at the NHL level. He was drafted 10th overall by the Panthers in 2006, but the Czech left winger only scored a total of 16 goals over the past two seasons.

    Ice time is going to be difficult to come by on a deep and talented team like the Blackhawks.

    During the lockout, Frolik is playing in the Czech Republic and has already scored nine goals in 17 games, nearly double what he scored in 63 games with the Hawks last season.

    The catch to Frolik remaining in Europe is that he's under contract to Chicago for both this season and 2013-14.

Alex Ovechkin

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    Yes, I know, Alex Ovechkin has nearly 10 years left on a contract that now carries a cap hit of roughly $9.5 million per season. The actual odds of him walking away from that contract are not great.

    But Ovechkin has been outspoken about the lockout and angry about the potential pay cut he would have to take if the new CBA cuts player salaries across the board. If Ovie gets angry enough, would he try to go to court and say the pay cut constituted a breach of contract?

    Teams in the KHL would pay top dollar for Ovechkin, and he would be treated as royalty in Russia where he would be the best player in the league.

    The odds of it happening are slim, and it's likely Ovechkin is just making idle threats during the lockout to put a little pressure on the owners, but his past quotes (as seen on the intro slide to this article) earned him a place on this list.