Dynamo Moscow's Ovechkin and SKA St. Petersburg's Kovalchuk skate during their Kontinental Hockey League game in Moscow

Photo credit: Maxim Shemetov

Last Friday, Dynamo Moscow General Director Andrei Safronov was asked in a fan forum about his team’s interest in bringing Alex Ovechkin back to Russia to play for his home team. “Ovechkin has a current contract with the Capitals,” Safronov said. “Can we try to pull him out? We’ll talk. We’ll look at each other and will have some result.”

That might have seemed at first an unrehearsed response to an informal question, but on Tuesday, Safronov doubled down on his comments in an interview with Sport Express’s Dinara Kafiskina.

You said that you want to try to “snatch” Alexander Ovechkin from Washington to Dynamo. How real is that?

Everything depends on Washington’s management. In any case, there are chances, although minimal. We will work on that, stay in contact. It would be impossible to bring Alexander back this season, because he has a valid contract, but in the future – why not?

But does he himself want that?

Yes. I think all players now want to return to their homeland. The financial component is relevant. Considering taxation, it has become more attractive for the players to play in Russia. The KHL is growing and developing. Our league presents a competition for the NHL. It is true that we lack infrastructure and new arenas, but I think all that will come.

Given a chance to walk back from his claim, Safronov instead reiterated it and said the desire for a reunion is mutual. Whether this is something Ovechkin has actually discussed with Safronov or anyone at Dynamo is left to our interpretation, but there were lots of ways Safronov could have responded in Russian that would have been more ambiguous than his “Yes” followed by a full stop.

Unless, of course, Safronov meant nothing more than to bolster his opinion that “all players now want to return to their homeland.”

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  • Derek Eklund

    I feel like even if he did eventually want to return to Russia, he wouldn’t do it before nabbing at least one Stanley Cup.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    You say that as if winning the Stanley Cup were like picking up onions from the grocery store.

  • Derek Eklund

    I agree with what you are saying, but I don’t think hes past his window, so to speak. Leaving soonish would be premature.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Yeah I agree.

    I’m gonna see if Fedor has any insight on this issue, but there’s some stuff we should consider.

    a) he probably can’t leave unless the team lets him go.
    b) the team is not willing to let him go
    c) he will get worse as he gets older
    d) his contract will get more expensive soon
    e) the team may be willing to let him go in the future (a la NJD)

    We’ll see.

  • ACN

    We don’t care if you licked him first, Dynamo, we have current dibs. Hands off!

  • yv

    Either Safronov very stupid or hes playing his cunning game to force the issue here. Caps and NHL has all rights to block any movement in the direction of KHL. And one can guarantee they will, until Ted and Caps would be totally bankrupt. What is really bad is that he speaking on behave of Ovi and other Russian players in NHL, and nobody has asked him about this. Ovi probably privately need to say him ‘just shut your mouth and stop telling to others what I’m thinking”.

  • Chip

    Yeah of all the Russian players, I just really don’t see Ovechkin wanting to leave. I’m sure to some degree he would love to play in his home country, but for someone as competitive as Ovi, I just don’t see him jumping ship to a lower-tier. At least not for many years.

  • yv

    should be replaced on ‘behalf’ instead of behave above, reliance on autocorr.

  • Derek Eklund

    Yes, there is urgency. I would prefer he avoid Lanny McDonald territory if he does end up with a Cup, especially if he is with another franchise.

    I would be happy for him, but also dying inside.

  • Eddy Eagle

    Why do you say for e) willing to let him go? No matter what, Lou couldn’t stop him because he was retiring from the league.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Kovalchuk’s “retirement” could have been seen as a violation of point 4 of the memo of understanding (negotiating a new contract with a player already under another contract), but since Lou was (discretely) happy to see him go, the team didn’t complain.

  • yv

    Also, I would like to see the Ovis reaction when some reporters will ask him during first press conf. about what Safronov said. Ovi ‘d be polite but I expect to see some silent and unpublishable words.

  • Matilda

    And Kovalchuck had said when he signed that he wants to go back to russia in a few years, before the contract was up, so they were aware that he was going o leave earlier

  • Catherine__M

    Meh. Even if it were true, there’s nothing Ovie or the KHL could really do about it anyway (short of the purposeful sandbagging thing that xenophobic conspiracy theorists claim happens).

    This guy is doing a transparent, entry-level job on media manipulation: say something controversial and/or absurd, it gets published by sympathetic media (which you may or may not control), which forces coverage by other media, which may eventually force the object of your rumor (in this case Ovie and/or the Caps/NHL) to answer some questions about it, the coverage of which gives legitimacy to your original made up/absurd claim. Then you may or may not choose to up the ante for the next round. Voila! You’ve now made an issue of your choosing out of nothing and are driving the story.

    Not to bring up politics but I’m totally going to bring up politics: this tactic is the bread-and-butter of smarmy campaign managers the nation over. You see it every two years in swing Congressional districts. And usually the first-shot-absurd-claim is from some real serious wacko who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning in the first place and thus can afford to look crazy. Or is so crazy they don’t care. Either way.

  • seandlax9

    All this is is posturing in an Olympic year. After the Olympics, this will go away for another 4 years.

  • bskillet

    The NHL will always be the best league with most all the best players no matter how many leave to play in there own countries. If Alex or anyone else leave we will replace them with new talent. There are hundreds of guys that would love nothing more then to play in the NHL, it would suck to lose Alex but time goes on.

  • Eddy Eagle

    Yes but did you take into realization that it would be hard to prove that he was negotiating a contract before he decided to retire? Look at what the reports are that Malkin had an offer from Dallas. But all Jim Nill had to say was I didn’t do that, that’s ludicrous and the discussion was over.

    What they do behind closed doors is pretty hard to prove. And no point in looking like a fool for Lou by doing that.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Irrelevant since New Jersey was eager to unload the contract– to the point of complicity.

  • Eddy Eagle

    It’s not irrelevant since it is factual information, and also information that would refute some of your comment; But yes Lou and New Jersey didn’t mind, seeing as they are in a rebuild now. But to the point of complicity, I don’t think so.

  • shaysite

    You have to wonder why one of the world’s best players would want to play in a second rate league-Russian or not.