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Is Ilya Kovalchuk staying in the KHL?

Jan 8, 2013, 9:37 AM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk Getty Images

A lot of big-name Russian-born players went to the KHL over the lockout and a couple, like Ilya Kovalchuk, suggested months ago that it might not be a temporary assignment.

“Basically, I don’t rule out staying in Russia in the case of a reduction of our salaries in the NHL,” Kovalchuk told Sportbox.ru.

With the NHL season about to get underway, Kovalchuk is still with St. Petersburg SKA and playing with them today, according to the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti. So is he just getting in a little extra time with the team he has been captaining, or is something else going on?

TSN Bob McKenzie’s tweeted that many in New Jersey are hearing that Kovalchuk might not return, although McKenzie cautioned that it’s just a rumor and not something he’s confirmed.

For his part, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello hasn’t spoken with Kovalchuk yet, according to the Bergen Record. However, Lamoriello hasn’t gotten any indication that Kovalchuk is thinking about staying in Russia in defiance of the 15-year, $100 million deal he signed with New Jersey.

Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman added that he’s “working on” arrangements for the superstar to head back to New Jersey.

So now we wait to see if that happens or if the rumors have a basis in reality.

Kovalchuk, 29, is signed with the Devils through 2024-25 and has been paid just $12 million of his $100 million deal. If he were to stay in Russia, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says his contracted “could be” voided.

Update (11:19 a.m. ET):

Related:

Sorry, Isles: Visnovsky to stick with KHL club (Updated)

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