Evgeni Malkin: What His KHL Deal Means for the NHL Labor Deal, Potential Lockout

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IAugust 28, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15:  Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 15, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Penguins superstar and reigning Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin could become one of the high-profile players to sign with an overseas team if the NHL enters another lockout.

According to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Malkin could play in Russia during a possible lockout.

Reports out of Russia say that Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has agreed to a contract to play for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League if the start of the 2012-13 NHL season is delayed by a lockout.

J.P. Barry, who is Malkin's agent, confirmed that Malkin has spoken with teams in Moscow and Magnitogorsk about a week-to-week agreement that would allow him to play during a lockout, if there is one, but that nothing has been finalized.

Malkin leaving to play in the KHL could certainly affect other players' decisions to leave during a lockout, but how much would their departure impact the labor negotiations?

Players leaving North America to play overseas during the last lockout wasn't enough to speed up negotiations and save the 2004-05 season, so don't expect a different outcome this time.  If the owners were truly concerned about their stars going overseas, they would attempt to make a deal quicker. Unfortunately, this isn't a likely scenario.

It's easy to see why the players are contemplating playing overseas. Taking a year off and not playing some kind of organized hockey at real game speeds would not be beneficial to their development. Many players are still developing their talents and cannot afford to just do drills or play in small local leagues in their free time during a lockout.

If the NHL players wanted to send a strong message to the owners, they would all leave and go play overseas. This would be a huge PR nightmare for the league and also anger the fans. This would be an effective way to get a new CBA done quicker.

Until something this dramatic occurs, star players such as Malkin leaving to compete overseas isn't likely to have a meaningful impact on the labor talks.

The owners are going to fight hard for what they want, and it's hard to see a few stars leaving to play overseas changing that.


Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.