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KHL calling: Brent Sopel headed to Russia; Alex Kovalev to follow?

Jul 29, 2011, 3:05 PM EDT

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Alex Kovalev Getty Images

With the NHL free agent market all but running out of jobs for those available, some players are taking the initiative and finding work elsewhere.

Former Penguins star and former Rangers and Canadiens forward Alex Kovalev is reportedly heading to the KHL. According to sources, Kovalev will sign a deal with Atlant Mytishchi to play hockey next season in his home country. Kovalev spent last season with the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins and scored 16 goals and 18 assists in 74 games combined with each team. In his time with the Penguins, he scored just two goals and five assists.

Over 18 NHL seasons, Kovalev has scored 428 goals and amassed 1,024 points but at 38 years-old he’s lost a step and isn’t as dynamic of a scorer as he once was. While it’ll be sad to see him leave the NHL, he’s seen the game rocket past his abilities to be a big time offensive producer.

source: Getty Images

Former Montreal defenseman and Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks Brent Sopel announced via Twitter that he’s headed to Russia to play in the KHL. Making his signing all the more official was the posting made by Sopel’s wife on her blog saying as much.

Sometimes, well most of the time, things don’t go as planned.  This is one of them.  We have been back in the Syracuse area visiting family for over a week now, and Sopes and Paul returned to Chicago two days ago.  I received a phone call that he signed with the KHL.  Metallurg Novokuznetsk to be exact.  The hardest part is that he’s got to leave by August 9th – not much time.

While Kovalev’s departure would be sad, Sopel’s is a bit surprising given that he’s got some defensive abilities on the blue line and is a capable shot blocker. Last season with Atlanta and Montreal, Sopel had two goals and five assists all with the Thrashers. With the Canadiens, Sopel registered no points and was a -1 in plus/minus in 12 games. Being a defensive defenseman means not scoring points and not getting noticed in your own end.

There’s certainly a place for Sopel in the NHL, but waiting it out and potentially ending up with a two-way deal and winding up in the AHL at some point isn’t too appealing. You can’t fault Sopel for going for the sure thing and the sure money, even if it is so far from home.

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