(NEW YORK) -- In what could be the first of many current locked out NHL players, New Jersey Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk is headed to his native home of Russia to play hockey.
Kovalchuk, 29, will play for the SKA St. Petersburg of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, but won't play until Sept. 23, his agent confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com on Monday. Joining him in Russia will be Ottawa Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar and Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin playing for Mettalurg of the KHL.
"We understand the people that suffer the most are the fans," Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby said of the current lockout.
The KHL's salary for NHL players is set at a maximum of 65 percent of what they earn under their NHL deals.
As for when talks will begin again, the NHL understands what they are up against.
"This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room," the league said. "The league, the clubs and the players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans."
The two sides remain far apart on the key economic issues.
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