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Many NHL players heading to Russia

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Looks like because of the cap in some situations, some players can't seem to find work that will pay them what they feel they are worth so they are heading to Russia.

There goes Nils Ekman, joining a growing list of NHL free agents who are following their noses to Russia this season.

At least reportedly. The blogosphere was aflutter on Monday with posts titled things like 'Nils Ekman nu klar för ryska Khimik', the universal hockey language for 'He don't play here no more.'

We've seen what I'm sure is a record number of decent NHLers take that route so far this summer, something that comes as a result of the penny-pinching under the league's new collective bargaining agreement. Even with the salary cap rising to just more than $50-million, there are an awful lot of teams that don't have more than the minimum to allot to their checking-line forwards and defenders, which, after an injury-plagued season in Pittsburgh, is where Ekman was likely going to play this season.

The money in Russia isn't necessarily 'big money', but it does dwarf an NHL minimum contract, and especially so when tax considerations come into play (as in, in Russia, there aren't many).

Ekman is perhaps the most significant player to flee so far (aside from Alex Yashin, although that depends on your definition of significant), given he's one season removed from back-to-back 20-plus-goal, 55-plus-point campaigns in San Jose – but he's far from alone. Familiar faces to make the jump this summer include Jamie Heward, Alex Perezhogin, Jamie Lundmark, Oleg Tverdovsky, Stanislav Chistov, Oleg Saprykin, Jamie McLennan, Anton Babchuk, Alex Suglobov and Randy Robitaille.

And we're also getting word Jan Bulis and Josef Vasicek could soon join them.

It's difficult to say just how much this exodus of players will dilute the league's talent pool, but one would be pretty hard-pressed to argue there isn't an impact at all. Fewer skilled players, even on teams' checking lines, will decrease the level of play in the NHL eventually, and the league can't stand to lose 20 solid citizens every year.

These aren't exactly washed up veterans making the leap.

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I tend to think as long as the transfer agreement is still an issue, you may see less and less Russian players in the NHL. That's just my opinion though. I'm surprised by the other names heading over there too. I've never been particularly too impressed with Jamie Lundmark or Jamie McLennan, but if the Russian league proves to pay players better, then I'd probably do the same thing if I was them. I'm kinda sorry to see Saprykin leave the NHL. I enjoyed watching him with the Coyotes, he was always one that entertained me.

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At least there are alternatives for players who want to keep playing and earn a pretty decent living. According to the FanHouse, the off the ice conditions aren't the best but you have to give up things to go away from the premiere league in the world


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