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: