Yesterday brought word of the first player under NHL contract saying “nah, I’m good, I’m gonna stay overseas” when Islanders’ defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky released the following statement through his agent Neil Sheehy, as first reported by Arthur Staple:

“I have decided to stay and continue my career in the KHL for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. I am thankful to the Isles for being so good to me. My decision not to play in the NHL is due to family and personal reasons.

“I have made no decisions on next season. My focus now is on Slovan Bratislava, and enjoying my family in my home country.”

I assume the “personal reasons” consist of “I personally don’t want to play for the Isles,” but whatever. He’s passing up a few million dollars to avoid it, so he must really not want to come back.

And today…hold your breath Devils fans: there are rumblings Ilya Kovalchuk might want to do the same thing.

“…but many hearing he might not.” Oof.

I personally can’t make sense of that, given the contract he was signed to in New Jersey, that they made him the face of the franchise, and that they went the distance in playoffs and all the rest of that, but I guess none of us really know his personal situation (details like “just how much goddamn money are they paying him in Russia?” included). Hell, it may not even be remotely true and he may touchdown in Newark for brunch today. …Okay, that last part isn’t happening since he’s actually playing a game over there today, buy you get the point.

We still don’t have a clear idea of who’s going to want to stay and who’s going to return to North America, but one clear picture is already forming on horizon: this is going to get ugly. Not in a way that we’ll really have to stress out about, like with the lockout, but this time Bill Daly and Gary Bettman will turn their sights on the KHL, and they’ll be battling on our side, for our league. Here’s what the NHL’s #2 in command, Daly, had to say about it in an email to Staple:

That’s like, mob boss cold right there. “Eh, uh, Mr. KHL Commissioner Medvedev, Mr. Bettman sent me here to gently remind you that uh, we have a deal, know what I’m saying? And I’d just like to remind you that it’d be wise to respect that.

Or else…

And nobody wants to get the clamps.

I’ll keep this updated as we learn more, but it almost seems certain that there will be a few holdouts, and in turn, a KHL/NHL battle. Maybe it affects Sochi, maybe it affects seasons beyond this one, maybe it affects nothing.

We’ll find out soon enough.

***

UPDATES:

Remarks from Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov seem like they should quash the rumour entirely:

“I think he is just staying to play another game or so. Not staying for a while. Andrei Markov, I am told, is also still in Russia and may play in the next game for his team. I wouldn’t say this is serious.

“Also, the KHL pretty much conceded that none of the NHLers will play in its ASG in a few days. That includes Kovalchuk. Although I heard that the KHL wanted to ask the NHL to allow their players to participate.”

And a few more notes…

 

And one final splash of conjecture:

Comments (7)

  1. What about when Ryan O’Reilly signs a deal? He’s on a 2 year KHL deal, and only has a verbal out clause. If the NHL demand Visnovsky honor his contract, will Magnitogorsk return the favour and demand O’Reilly stay?

    • O’Reilly is currently an unsigned RFA for the Avs, so there are other complications with him. He could presumably remain in the KHL as long as he doesn’t sign with the Avalanche, who would continue to hold his rights. I think that his KHL deal states that any NHL deal he signs must exceed the value of his KHL contract. That clause gives him a fairly sure way of getting out of the KHL while him a little wealthier. Maybe someone from Mile High Hockey who reads Backhand Shelf can correct me, though.

      • That’s interesting, I wasn’t aware of the higher value contract clause. Last I heard from Dater and other Avs media was that management been in contact with him, but he’s looking for a bigger contract than they were offing before the lockout. All I can say is I’ll be rather upset if he’s not in a Avalanche jersey this year.

        • When PuckDaddy wrote about the signing (http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/ryan-o-reilly-inks-two-deal-khl-metallurg-164734209–nhl.html) they quoted RIaNovosti as saying there was a mutual agreement that the KHL wouldn’t stand in the way of a better NHL deal, though now I am not sure if that was actually in writing or not.

          I’m also an Avs fan and would like to see O’Reilly back in uniform for them. But even if he signs, there’s reason to think that he’s already on his way out of the organization. The Avs don’t really have a track record of hanging onto RFAs who, from management’s perspective, don’t just shut up and gratefully sign on the dotted line.

      • Ask and you shall receive.

        The clause you speak of actually isn’t in his KHL contract – it was a “verbal agreement” made when he signed. It has been strongly implied that money would be the deciding factor between the two leagues, so in essence, you’re right – it was a way to insure that his NHL contract was over a certain amount. He’s rumored to be making around $2.4 mil yearly over there.

        The Avs technically can’t re-sign him until the CBA is ratified, even though I can almost guarantee that they will shortly after. I just hope all of this funny business hasn’t angered management to the point of a trade.

  2. O’Reilly has been the Avs hardest working player on and off the ice since the day he was drafted. It would be a massive blow to lose him; here’s hoping Avs management isn’t that stupid. The fact that Sakic is now part of said management tells me they probably won’t be.

  3. Islanders may wanna just let Visnovsky stay or talk to him about who he would like to be traded to. Sometimes if a player doesn’t want to play with you it best to just let him go, I’m reminded of Kyle Turris in Phoenix

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