We've seen a slew of stories and blogs discussing the risks that might be associated with Penguins center Sidney Crosby playing in Europe during the NHL lockout. He has said he might be getting closer to a decision -- perhaps especially if there is not much progress made during mediated negotiations that are in their second day today.
Crosby made a last-minute decision Tuesday to fly to Arizona and join a group of NHL players training there this week. He got in a practice Wednesday but is missing today's because of illness, according to reports from Scottsdale.
It seems that hang-wringing over Crosby taking some sort of undue risk by going to Europe is a bit exaggerated.
There is some financial risk, to be sure, as not all of his upcoming 12-year, $104.4 million contract can be insured. But that's his decision, and if he opts for Europe it will be up to him and his agent, Pat Brisson, to find the best fit for him, and that would include a club that wants him badly enough to pay what could be upward of $200,000 to insure his contract.
In terms of injury, is that really any greater a risk in Europe than it would be if there was no lockout and he was playing in the NHL?
Crosby only plays at one level -- full out -- no matter the setting. His past two seasons have been heaviliy wrecked by a concussion and neck issues, but he seems to be past those, and he's so well educated on the matter now that he would not put himself in danger. We have seen him regularly in practices at Southpointe, and while that is decidedly different from games, he looks to be in tremendous shape and form.
Funny, we don't hear an outcry of fear over Penguins center Evgeni Malkin playing in Russia in the Kontinental Hockey League. He is the reigning NHL scoring champion and MVP, and he had a major knee injury shortly after Crosby's initial injury.
There seems to be a thought that Crosby should avoid the KHL because it might be rougher than other European leagues. We have talked to a few people who are familiar with KHL hockey who point out that for the most part it is far from some sort of "Slap Shot" league. Highlights we have seen bear this out. A bigger concern might be with the medical care there, but if there was an issue we trust that Crosby would seek competent treatment. And again, Malkin played there previously and didn't hestitate to sign with his hometown Metallurg Magnitogorsk team during the lockout. His only problem so far that we know of is a lost tooth.
It might not be the KHL. If Crosby is leaning toward a particular country or league in Europe, he hasn't tipped his hand.
A couple of good things could come of Crosby playing overseas.
First, there is a small chance that seeing the face of the league leave for Europe could spark some progress in negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association.
Second, it could help Crosby. The guy badly needs and wants to play in real, meanningful games. His first choice, of course, is to play in the NHL, but any time spent playing in Europe -- a couple of weeks, the rest of the season, whatever the case -- would surely help him put some finishing touches on his comeback, and he could be dynamite whenever the NHL gets up and running again.
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