Monday, December 31, 2012

Will Russian Hockey Players Return To NHL After Lockout?

The NHL is locked out for the second time since 2004/05, and once again the majority of Russian players who had been playing in the NHL have returned to play in Russia. Last lockout the KHL did not yet exist, however there is a high probability that the Russian mob was already using Russian pro hockey to wash dirty money. I can't tell you what the average salary of a Russian player was in 2005 versus 2012; even if they're listed online, there were/are likely substantial under the table payments. It is difficult to measure changes in the monetary incentive for Russian players to stay in Russia. The other difference between 2005 and 2012 is that Russia will soon be hosting a winter Olympics, which could lure players to stay in Russia, especially if they believe playing in the KHL increases their chances of playing on the national team.

Of the Russian players who played in the NHL in 2004 and returned to play in Russia during the lockout, 74% of them returned to the NHL after the lockout for the 2005/06 season. 26% did not return for the next season.

The players who went home and returned to the NHL the season after the lockout were: (note my list only includes Russians drafted to the NHL after the fall of the Soviet Union, since I'm using my draft database to get these names)

Ilya Kovalchuk
Dainius Zubrus
Alexander Semin
Pavel Datsyuk
Sergei Gonchar
Nikolai Antropov
Andrei Markov
Fedor Tyutin
Alexei Ponikarovsky
Sergei Samsonov
Alexei Kovalev
Nikolai Zherdev
Alexander Frolov
Ruslan Salei
Vyacheslav Kozlov
Maxim Afinogenov
Denis Grebeshkov
Viktor Kozlov
Dmitri Kalinin
Alexei Semenov
Alexei Zhitnik
Andrei Zyuzin
Sergei Brylin
Vitaly Vishnevsky
Maxim Kondratiev
Alexei Yashin
Oleg Saprykin
Darius Kasparaitis
Danil Markov
Dmitry Afanasenkov
Alexei Zhamnov
Oleg Kvasha
Alexander Khavanov
Alexander Karpovtsev
Andrei Nazarov
Konstantin Koltsov
Fedor Fedorov

The players who never returned:

Denis Arkhipov
Igor Korolev
Andrei Nikolishin
Alexei Morozov
Alexander Korolyuk
Ivan Novoseltsev
Artem Chubarov
Petr Schastlivy
Denis Shvidki
Igor Radulov
Maxim Kuznetsov
Sergei Zinovjev
Mikhail Kuleshov

If we assume that the increased strength of the KHL versus the old Russian Elite League and the Soviets hosting the next Olympics will convince more players to stay in the motherland; we could see half of the Russians who played in the NHL in 2011/12 (and are currently playing in the KHL) stay home when a new CBA is signed. There are very few Russians playing in the AHL this season (9 if you count former Soviet Republics).

34 Russian hockey players played at least 9 GP the NHL last season. 5 of those players are playing in the AHL this season (Loktinov, Burmistrov, Orlov, Voynov, and Grachev). 26 of them are playing in the KHL this season (7 of those now KHL players are not under NHL contract if the league were to resume). Those players under NHL contract are:

Alexander Ovechkin
Evgeni Malkin
Alexander Semin
Pavel Datsyuk
Ilya Kovalchuk
Andrei Markov
Sergei Gonchar
Fedor Tyutin
Anton Volchenkov
Nik Antropov
Sergei Kostitsyn
Nikolai Kulemin
Anton Babchuk
Nikita Nikitin
Alexei Emelin
Artem Anisimov
Alexei Ponikarovsky
Kaspars Daugavins
Dmitri Kulikov

My prediction is that at least 10 of the players listed above stay in Russia at the end of the lockout. I'm just not sure which ones it will be. Hopefully Datsyuk comes back. He did last time.

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