With the NHL rejecting the 17-year, $102 million contract that Ilya Kovalchuk signed with New Jersey, one thing should be clear to Kovalchuk: He is never going to get the money he wants playing in the NHL.
Kovalchuk should go play in Russia for two reasons: the money and the Olympics.
First is the money. If Kovalchuk wants to be making that much money a year, the only option he has is the KHL. Not to mention the money he'd get there is tax-free.
Second is the 2014 Sochi Olympics. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has already said that he's not sure if he'll allow NHL players to play in those games. While I believe this is just a ploy for the next round of the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks, Russians like Kovy can force Bettman's hand and sign with the KHL. Not long-term, just for the next four years so Bettman knows that they're just playing there so they can play for their homeland in 2014. No politics involved.
While it would certainly hurt the NHL to lose a player of Kovalchuk's calibre, it is the only way that Bettman will realize that the Olympics should not be used as a bargaining chip.
If Bettman truly wants to grow the game of hockey in the US, then he should let the best American players play in the Olympics. There's no chance that amateur American players can beat the pros that Russia has in the KHL. This isn't 1980 anymore.
So Kovy, please do what's best for American hockey and go play in Russia.