With the NHL's collective bargaining agreement set to expire midnight Saturday, several players have reportedly made arrangements to join other teams - and in some cases, they'll be suiting up immediately.
One of the most sought-after players looking for work was Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin - and he didn't have to look for long. The defending Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner is expected to suit up for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League as early as Thursday against Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
Malkin and former Penguins teammate Sergei Goncharpracticed with the club Friday and are expected to provide an instant boost for a Magnitogorsk team that finished third in the KHL's Eastern Conference last season before being ousted by Avangard Omsk in the second round of the playoffs.
Both players have ties to the Russian club. Malkin played his first three professional seasons there before heading to North America in 2006 to join the Penguins, who made him the second overall pick in the 2004 draft. Gonchar toiled for Magnitogorsk during the last NHL lockout, finishing second on the team in scoring among defensemen with 17 points in 40 games.
Malkin and Gonchar aren't the only players planning out their immediate futures. A report on Russian website sports.ru says unrestricted free agent forward Andrei Kostitsyn has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the KHL's Traktor Chelyabinsk. Kostitsyn, who split last season between the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators, is expected to be in uniform for the club when it faces off against Dynamo Moscow on Sunday.
As reported earlier in the week, the restrictions on NHL players hoping to play in the KHL are stringent, and the competition for jobs is expected to be fierce with only three roster spots per team available to NHL players.
Meanwhile, the NHL Players' Association appears resigned to the fact that the impending lockout could be a lengthy one. The Toronto Star has learned that the NHLPA is looking to set up an eight-game series between Canada and Russia to honor the 40th anniversary of the famed Summit Series.
According to the report, the series would feature four games in Canada and four games in Russia, to be played by the best available players from both countries. The union is in touch with Hockey Canada, which has extensive experience setting up tournaments and similar hockey-related events and would be entrusted with the task of organizing the exhibition series.
As for the CBA itself, no new talks are scheduled - putting the league on the verge of its third work stoppage in 18 years.