Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are proud Russians. They have represented their country repeatedly on the international stage, having won many a gold medal at various world championships. As a result, despite their playing in the NHL half a world away, they remain among the biggest sporting celebrities in their country.
Naturally, their countrymen would prefer to see them playing on home soil. In the wake of Ilya Kovalchuk's shocking retirement from the NHL to go play in Russia, it's not exactly the impossibility it once seemed to be.
Of course the KHL is going to want to see the country's biggest stars playing in their league and it's a question the league's leadership will get a lot from their fans and local media.
According to Russian hockey reporter Igor Eronko, KHL President Alex Medvedev was asked by Sport-Express.ru when fans could expect to see Ovechkin and Malkin return to their homeland permanently.
#KHL prez Alex Medvedev on when we'd see Ovechkin and Malkin in KHL: 'You mean comeback to Russia? There might be good surprises in a year'— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) September 1, 2014
Hardly anything definitive there of course, but in this preseason wasteland, it's bound to raise a few eyebrows.
Ovechkin and Malkin may one day return home, but it's hard to imagine either leaving while still in the prime of their NHL careers, and on such long, lucrative contracts.
Ovechkin still has seven years remaining on his 13-year, $124 million contract with the Washington Capitals. He stands to make $10 million per season starting next year. The first year of Malkin's eight-year, $76 million contract with the
Malkin and Ovechkin will each be 36 when their respective contracts end, leaving plenty of years for them to return home and close out their careers if either chooses to do so. Pavel Datsyuk, who still has three years remaining on his contract with the Detroit Red Wings even recently talked about closing out his career in Russia.
That surprise Medvedev is talking about certainly could always be a possibility, even if it seems unlikely at this point. The allure of the KHL is always going to be real for Russian players in the NHL. There's money, fame and perhaps most of all, they're literally at home.
To attract NHL players while they're in their prime like Kovalchuk and the pipe dream of Ovechkin and Malkin, is always going to be a goal of the league, but until it improves its product, most NHL fans probably have little to fear.
The best players in the world can often be the most competitive and that's why playing in the best league in the world will always have value to them, no matter their nationality.
In the meantime, Ovechkin and Malkin don't seem to have a care in the world. Here's the duo singing karaoke (poorly, I think), as shared by Ovechkin on Instagram Saturday.