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NHL lockout: Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk headline players who sign in KHL

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com
Evgeni Malkin (right) and Sergei Gonchar reunite after playing together in Pittsburgh before. (Getty Images)

Once you got past the despair of seeing the NHL in a lockout again, Sunday morning had a little bit of excitement. It was almost like July 1 in the NHL again. Except players were fleeing en masse to sign deals in the KHL, not North America.

It took only a few hours for some of the deals to be announced, bringing locked-out stars to Europe's top league. Some of the deals had been in the works for a while as the lockout hardly caught anybody by surprise. That made the signing frenzy -- I do use that term a little loosely -- possible.

Remember, the KHL announced its rules for accepting locked-out NHL players. No team can sign more than two Russian players and a third foreign player from the NHL. Oh, and that foreign-born player? He can't be a scrub.

With that in mind, here is your NHL-to-KHL signings update:

Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar were the first two pieces to fall. The Penguins star and Senators defenseman signed with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, which happens to be Malkin's old KHL team. Just in case that wasn't enough, Nikolai Kulemin appears headed to Metallurg, too.

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New Jersey Devils star forward Ilya Kovalchuk is returning to Russia as well after signing with SKA St. Petersburg. Kovalchuk hasn't played with St. Petersburg previously, growing up with HC Spartak Moscow before the NHL and then playing for Ak Bars Kazan and Khimki Moscow Oblast in a stretch from 2004-06.

Another team that made quick work by signing a pair of Czech players was Kladno, which reached deals with new Stars forward Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Plekanec of the Canadiens. It's no surprise the two Czechs are going to play for a team in the Czech Republic, especially when you remember Jagr owns the team! In the case of Plekanec, he played with Kladno before reaching the NHL and was born in the city.

Since he's still a junior and was capable of staying in North America by going back to the Sarnia Sting, it is a little surprising to see Edmonton Oilers No. 1 draft pick Nail Yakupov is going to play in the KHL. He is going to join Neftekhimik.

A pair of players will join the Ukrainian KHL squad of Donbass. That would be Alexei Ponikarovsky of the Winnipeg Jets and Ruslan Fedotenko, who recently signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.

The team in Atlant -- not Atlanta -- is bringing aboard goaltender Anton Khudobin, who figures to see time in Boston behind Tuukka Rask in the absence of Tim Thomas, and possibly Kings center Andrei Loktionov.

It appears Nik Antropov of the Jets is going to join up with Barys Astana.

Kaspars Daugavins and his cool name are headed to the KHL to join the Latvian team Dinamo Riga.

• Pavel Kubina isn't going to the KHL, but he's signed on with a team in Europe. The defenseman will be going to the Czech League to play for Vitkovice.

Ondrej Pavelec is also heading to the Czech League. The Jets goaltender will be plying his trade for HC Trinec after getting a nice new deal from Winnipeg earlier this summer.

There obviously are still a lot of big fish in the sea -- like Alex Ovechkin, who seems to be headed for CSKA Moscow instead of his former club, Dynamo Moscow. There is also Ilya Bryzgalov, who has said he plans to go to the KHL during the lockout. And then some foreign stars like Sidney Crosby, who has said he might look into the KHL.

Now if we can just get that KHL Center Ice package on our cable/satellite providers' plans, we'll be able to forget there is even a lockout! OK, maybe not.

Before you panic, remember these are all deals that should end once the lockout is over and they will return to the NHL as originally scheduled.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @StubitsCBS on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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