NHL players have opportunities to play professional hockey if they want to take them.
They may be locked out by their own league, but by playing in European hockey leagues like the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), they can play at a high level, get paid well and develop a fairly dependable routine while the NHL keeps its doors locked.
Malkin is playing with Maganitogorsk of the KHL, his hometown team.
Malkin has said that he will return to the NHL when the lockout comes to an end and pull his familiar Penguins' jersey over his head. However, there are several reasons he may want to stay in Russia.
Malkin is not only playing in his home country, he is playing in his hometown.
Malkin is one of the best players in the world and is recognized as a superstar everywhere he plays. But he gets the hero treatment playing in his hometown.
There is something comfortable about playing in your home country and hometown. The city of Pittsburgh has made an effort to embrace Malkin and make him feel like one of its own. Perhaps it has done more than any other North American city to make its Russian star feel comfortable.
However, when Malkin is playing in Magnitogorsk, the city does not have to do anything to make him feel like he belongs. He was raised there. He knows he belongs.
The KHL is a much-improved league.
It was formed in 2008, although it was predated by the Russian Superleague.
However, as the KHL has matured, it has become a better and more enjoyable experience for players who either have stayed in Russia to play or who have come over from North America.
Veteran NHL defenseman Sergei Gonchar is a teammate of Malkin on Magnitogorsk. He told Yahoo.com writer Nicholas J. Cotsonika that the KHL experience is a positive one.
Playing over here, it's much more enjoyable now than it was. To be honest with you, I'm enjoying it here. For me, it goes either way [if the entire NHL season is canceled]. I like it here. I enjoy my teammates. We have a great team. So I don't care.
Player earn approximately 65 percent of what their NHL contracts pay when they compete in the KHL.
That's a major dip for most players.
However, players can get paid bonuses for individual performance and team performance. That can help improve their take-home pay.
The tax rate while playing in Russia is less than it would be playing in the United States or Canada. The tax rate for hockey players competing in Russia is 13 percent. That allows players to hold on to a greater percentage of what they are getting paid.
A player like Malkin can come to the KHL and play hockey. He doesn't have to worry about a lockout or other work stoppages.
It's simply about the game itself, getting to know his teammates and establishing his routine.
In the NHL, players have to worry about a Collective Bargaining Agreement, getting locked out by your owner and a cantankerous relationship between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association.
Relations may improve between the league and the NHLPA, but that day appears to be far in the future.
Malkin does not have to worry about the structure of the KHL. He can just go out and play hockey.
Malkin is embraced as a superstar while playing in Pittsburgh. Malkin is embraced as a hometown star while playing in Magnitogorsk.
There's a difference. As long as Malkin plays like a superstar, he will be treated well in Pittsburgh. However, if his production dips or anything happens that takes him out of his game, Malkin could be seen as just another European player competing in the NHL.
When he plays for Magnitogorsk, he will always be embraced as a hometown hero.