Everyone talks about KHL teams being oligarch playtoys, but all their bluster about paying big money for Russian stars to play in the KHL has been just that. To date, the most noteworthy players that I can think of that have taken this route are Radulov, who is a headcase anyway that the KHL didn't need to break the bank for, and Alexi Yashin, a player that no NHL team wants. The biggest name they've gotten is Jagr, who has since gone back to the NHL.
Radulov makes 9.2M per season tax-free, which is probably more than anyone earns playing hockey in the world. The fact that no NHL team would want Alexei Yashin, supposedly, is an indictment of the NHL and not Yashin.
Slava Kozlov ended his career in Russia. Sergei Fedorov. Sergei Brylin. Sergei Zubov. Alexei Zhitnik. Maxim Afinogenov is there now. Nikolai Zherdev is there now. Alex Frolov is there now. Denis Grebeshkov is there now. Danny Markov left the NHL at age 31 and is still playing in Russia. Viktor Kozlov left at age 33 - still there. Were all of these guys NHL-worthy when they left? Not necessarily, but some of them are solid players who could still be drawing an NHL paycheck but aren't.
The point is - look at the structure of the contract. Is it structured such that Kovalchuk wants to keep playing for the New Jersey Devils? No, it isn't. Sidney Crosby's deal has 3 years on the end that are worth $3M - not an amount worthy of his talents, even in 10-12 years, but at least plausible amounts that a player of his skill could play for.
And yes, Kovalchuk has been injured, but, from everything that's publicly available, these are not the debilitating injuries like Mario Lemieux's back or Eric Lindros' brains being scrambled. We don't know the details of his back injury during the playoffs last year, but it did not seem to be an issue this year. His shoulder injury this year, from all accounts, was not serious.
Injuries pile up. The shoulder's not a long-term concern, but a back injury should be - things like backs, hips, knees, and yes, consussions are of concern.
And while not many players make it to 40, Kovalchuk is not like most players. Also, as training, fitness and medicine becomes more sophisticated, and as the league makes the game safer for players (no head shots, mandatory visors, stricter enforcement of rules against hitting from behind), you'll probably end up seeing more and more players lasting a lot longer. There's a good chance Eric Lindros would still be playing had he started his career when these rules were in place.
That's quite a stretch. Guys retire from concussions in baseball. Hockey is still a very demanding contact sport and players will be forced into retirement because of concussions every year. Anyway, Kovalchuk hardly takes a physical pounding, so I don't really worry about him suffering head injuries. And again - Kovalchuk's career being longer is a point in my favor, not yours.
Edited by Triumph, 03 June 2013 - 04:33 PM.