Ilya Kovalcuk expresses desire to stay in Russia, but says it will be hard to break contract with Devils

While his Devils teammates are expecting him to return from Russia at some point soon for the start of the lockout-shortened NHL season, star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk continued to let them twist in the wind after playing in another game in the Kontinental Hockey League.

After notching an assist Thursday in SKA St. Petersburg’s 4-2 win over Salavat Yulaev in Ufa, Russia, Kovalchuk expressed a desire to remain in the KHL for the remainder of the season, but also acknowledged his commitment to the Devils.

“I want to stay in St. Petersburg, but I have contractual obligations in the NHL, which will be hard to break,” Kovalchuk told Sport-Express in Russia, according to the sports daily’s U.S. correspondent, Slava Malamud.

Kovalchuk has 13 years remaining on the 15-year, $100 million contract he signed with the Devils during the summer of 2010. The NHL and the KHL have a transfer agreement that would prohibit Kovalchuk from playing in the KHL after the NHL’s new collective bargaining agreement is ratified by the players.

“Right now, I can’t imagine how [my staying in the KHL] can be arranged. … But I don’t know anything yet,” Kovalchuk said.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said earlier this week that the KHL “confirmed” that it will honor the transfer agreement, but KHL and SKA St. Petersburg president Alexander Medvedev suggested Tuesday that the league might challenge whether NHL contracts signed under the expired CBA are still legally binding under the new Cba

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