Sidney Crosby seriously considering playing in Europe

Bruce Bennett

Sidney Crosby is healthy and wants to play hockey. Due to the lockout, he can't in North America and is going to look at Europe. A look at the leagues he might land in.

Like he has for most of the past two full years, Sidney Crosby has a problem. He isn’t playing hockey.

Problem is, now he is ready to, but he is locked out of a league wrestling with its player union over how to divide their revenues.

The option to sign in Europe has been a complicated one, as Crosby would need insurance on the $112 million contract he signed this past summer with the Penguins, and for a guy with a very checkered injury history, that’s not going to be a cheap matter.

But as a guy who has only played 30 total games since January 1, 2011, Crosby is chomping at the bit. Enough so that it is time for him to seriously consider signing a lockout contract with a team in Europe in order to get some much needed and wanted game-time in.

"I don't know, specifically, if I've gotten to that point where I'm looking at [particular] teams, but I think I'm more or less thinking that playing is becoming a little more and more important here, the longer we go. Especially in my case, where I've missed so much hockey in the last little bit,” as Crosby told the Post-Gazette.

It is rumored that Crosby would likely be looking at the KHL in Russia or Switzerland as likely places to play.

The Swiss league has become a lockout haven for NHL’ers. Last lockout Joe Thornton and Rick Nash joined the same team (Davos) and both went back there this time. Logan Couture, Dustin Brown, John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Kane, Patrice Bergeron and Jason Spezza are all over in Switzerland and it generally has a good reputation amongst hockey players as a nice lockout landing spot.

Far fewer North American players have gone to the Russian league; Joffrey Lupul, Tom Wandell, Ryan McDonaugh and Evander Kane are the only NHL’ers to try their luck over there, hardly the list in the paragraph above. The KHL though, does have better skill from top to bottom with players like Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Backstrom and most the other European NHL’ers playing in the league.

Crosby, as you would imagine, is in the enviable position of pretty much naming his spot, the PG article reports that whatever team signs Crosby is expected to cover the tab of his insurance (which could run to the tune of $200,000 - $400,000) and then he’d be seeking a salary on top of that.

There were some overtures made for Sid to join Malkin’s team in Magnitogorsk, but that doesn’t seem like a likely option considering all the variables. Magnitogorsk is considered one of the rougher teams, it’s not in a prime location (aka in the middle of Russia) and it’s building and facilities are ranked towards the bottom of even the KHL locales. In short, Malkin is very loyal and good to stay there when he could have easily jumped to a higher profile team playing in a bigger, fancier city like Moscow or St. Petersburg. Magniotogorsk also has Sergei Gonchar (under contract with Ottawa) and Nikolai Kumelin (of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and like Malkin a native of Magnitogorsk) so they are at their league mandated maximum 3 NHL players and it remains to be seen if they would dump someone to open up room for Crosby.

For player and team it's not the best fit at this point but even if joining Malkin isn’t a possibility, Crosby would have any number of suitors. “If Sidney Crosby decides to go overseas, the KHL won't just send him to a city. It might give him one,” as Elliotte Friedman from the CBC said last week in his 30 Thoughts column.

Sid’s agent Pat Brisson is surely working the situation to find a good spot all-around for Crosby. If you know anything about Crosby you know he’s very measured, very thorough and deliberate when it comes to major decisions like this, and he’s waited 2+ months into the lockout so far. He won’t make a rash decision and his handlers won’t send him somewhere that isn’t an excellent fit.

It’s becoming clear that Sidney Crosby needs to play hockey and really wants to play hockey. With the NHL and NHLPA lawyers dragging their feet, his frustration has finally mounted to the point of seriously considering taking his talents to Europe. It's a shame for NHL and Pittsburgh fans, but unless a new CBA is struck soon, the next time we see Sidney Crosby playing hockey, it'll be in a foreign jersey in a faraway place from Pittsburgh.

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