As the saying goes, the plot thickens.
Ilya Kovalchuk hasn't been spotted in around New Jersey for the simple reason that he remains in Russia, playing in KHL games.
This may all be a mere technicality, as the NHL Players' Association has not yet ratified the new collective bargaining agreement, so contact between players and teams isn't yet part of the day-to-day events — officially. But we have started to see players return to North America, have seen players don their respective team jerseys at official practice facilities and life signs continue to sprout up around the NHL.
But Kovalchuk is scheduled to play in a KHL game Thursday. He also played for SKA St. Petersburg Tuesday and is planning on playing in the KHL All-Star Game Sunday.
By then, the expectation is the players will have ratified the CBA and NHL teams will have some control on where and when their players play. Pavel Datsyuk has asked for, and received, permission from the Detroit Red Wings to play in the KHL All-Star Game.
But it apparently is a case of radio silence from Kovalchuk, the New Jersey Devils elite scorer. New Jersey Devils President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello has told reporters repeatedly he knows of no reason when Kovalchuk wouldn't be returning to the Devils, but that sure sounds like he hasn't spoken with him either.
Perhaps what's more troublesome to the Devils and their fans is Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman sounds like a man who isn't getting a lot of information either.
According to a report in Sportbox.ur in Russia, former Devils Alexei Kasatonov, now St. Petersburg's GM, said he will do whatever he can to keep Kovalchuk. And if I'm Kasatonov, I would be doing the same thing. But the fact that Kovalchuk, no shrinking violet with the media, hasn't spoken about what his plans are, at least creates the illusion that he could be thinking of abandoning the NHL.
Remember, earlier in the lockout Kovalchuk expressed his delight in playing in Russia and noted it wouldn't be a hard ship to play there for an entire season.
The NHL still is in a fluid situation as the truncated 2013 season takes shape and Kovalchuk is right in the middle of this unsettled atmosphere.
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