Alex Ovechkin and 10 Players That May Not Return If NHL Season Is Canceled

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IOctober 7, 2012

Alex Ovechkin and 10 Players That May Not Return If NHL Season Is Canceled

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    Alexander Ovechkin and several other players may give strong consideration to staying overseas to play hockey if the 2012-13 NHL season is cancelled because of the lockout.

    Players still under contract who don't want to return to the NHL when the work stoppage ends could face legal trouble, including fines, but some players may be willing to go through that process so they can play in a league where they are more comfortable and one that is closer to home.

    Let's look at 10 NHL players who may not return to the NHL if there's no 2012-13 season.

Ilya Bryzgalov

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    The Philadelphia Flyers goaltender is currently playing in the KHL for CSKA Moscow. But even though Bryzgalov might enjoy playing in the KHL more than the NHL, he would be foolish to walk away from the $41 million still left on his Flyers contract.

    Hockey fans in Philadelphia may not be too angry if Bryzgalov didn't want to return to the NHL since the 32-year-old veteran had a lackluster 2011-2012 season, which ended in the Flyers losing in the second round of the playoffs for the second straight year.

    However, if he chose not to come back to the Flyers, head coach Peter Laviolette would have to rely on veteran Michael Leighton between the pipes, which is not an ideal situation.

Alexander Semin

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    Alexander Semin is currently playing in Russia during the lockout, which is probably an environment that he enjoys more than the NHL.

    Semin's best chance to sign a long-term deal might be with a KHL team and not an NHL team. So if he can find an overseas team willing to pay him a lot of money, he might as well stay in Russia for a few years.

    Spending a few years in Russia and then coming back to the NHL might be the best way for Semin to get his career back on track.

Artem Anisimov

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    Artem Anisimov was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets this summer as part of the Rick Nash trade, which means he's no longer playing for a Stanley Cup contender.

    With all due respect to the Blue Jackets, the franchise is going to be a last-place team for the foreseeable future while they rebuild.

    If he can make a salary in the KHL that's close to his salary in his current NHL contract, then Anisimov should consider playing overseas long-term.

Ruslan Fedotenko

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    Ruslan Fedotenko was acquired in free agency this summer by the Philadelphia Flyers after spending two years with the New York Rangers. He is currently playing for HC Donbass in the KHL.

    Fedotenko's contract with the Flyers is for just one year, so if the season is cancelled, he won't be losing any money by staying overseas long-term.

    The 33-year-old veteran has already won a Stanley Cup, so he doesn't have to chase a championship in the NHL.

    Playing in his home country of Ukraine for HC Donbass would also be a nice way to end his professional hockey career.

Jaromir Jagr

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    If Jaromir Jagr loses $4.5 million this season due to a full season being cancelled, he may choose to stay in the Czech Republic and continue playing for the team he owns.

    Since he's only under contract with the Dallas Stars for the 2012-13 season, Jagr wouldn't have to give up any money by staying overseas past this year.

    However, not being able to see Jagr play one final year in the NHL because of a lockout would be awful for hockey fans.

Michal Neuvirth

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    Michal Neuvirth hasn't been able to prove that he's the No. 1 goalie for the Washington Capitals over the last few years, and now that young netminder Braden Holtby is the man for the future, Neuvirth might as well stay overseas.

    He is currently playing for Sparta Praha of the Czech League, and he has a much better chance to start and receive a lot of playing time with this club than with the Capitals.

    Neuvirth was unimpressive last year, posting a record of 13-13-5 in 38 games. And he had his worst GAA and save percentage since the 2008-09 season, when he played just five games.

Lubomir Visnovsky

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    Lubomir Visnovsky is playing for Slovan Bratislava of the KHL, but he has just one year left on his New York Islanders contract.

    The 36-year-old defenseman has made $25 million in salary over the last few years, so if he can play in his home country of Slovakia, be closer to his family and play a lot of minutes in the KHL, he could certainly stay overseas for the rest of his career.

    Playing for Slovan Bratislava for the entire season, even if the lockout ends in the next few months, would probably be more fun than being part of a struggling NHL team like the Islanders.

    Visnovsky also played for Slovan Bratislava during the 2004-05 lockout.

Lennart Petrell

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    Lennart Petrell played in 60 games for the Edmonton Oilers last season and scored just four goals with five assists.

    The 28-year-old is currently playing for Helsinki in the Finland Elite league, where he will likely receive more than the 9:38 of ice time per game that he earned last year with the Oilers.

    Petrell's career began in Finland in 2000, and even though he was drafted in 2004 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, last year was his first full season in the NHL.

    Petrell would be wise to stay in Finland, where he was a productive offensive player before playing in Edmonton last year.

Nik Antropov

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    Nik Antropov is playing in the KHL for Barys Astana during the lockout. And since his current NHL contract expires after the 2012-13 season, he may decide to just stay overseas.

    Last year, he scored just 35 points for the Winnipeg Jets, which was his lowest single-season total since the 2006-07 season.

    The 32-year-old veteran could choose to sign long-term in the KHL because, when his current NHL deal expires, it's unlikely that a team will pay him anywhere close to the $4.75 million he's due to make this season.

Alexander Ovechkin

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    Alexander Ovechkin would be the biggest star in the KHL if he spent the rest of his career in Russia, but there's no way that he will walk away from the $86 million of guaranteed money left on his current Capitals contract.

    In the likely event that other top Russian players, such as Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk, go back to the NHL when the lockout ends, it would be shocking if Ovechkin didn't return to North America as well.

    It's hard to imagine Ovechkin leaving the NHL before he wins a Stanley Cup or has a few more deep playoff runs with the Capitals, but it wouldn't be surprising at all if he spent the final few years of his professional career playing in the KHL.