With talks between players and officials in North America stalling, speculation is rife that the likes of Evgeny Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Syomin might be playing the KHL next season - at least until a deal is done to get the NHL back in action.

But while many are anticipating a repeat of the 2004-05 season, where a lock-out over the Atlantic brought several big names to Russia, some are taking a more cautious view.

And there is even talk of Alexei Yashin - who spent last season with CSKA - receiving offers to return to the US.

Yury Nikolayev, the agent who represents Kovalchuk’s interests in Russia, told Izvestiya he was all for a lock-out in the NHL, believing it would be to the benefit of Russian hockey. Aside from encouraging players like Kovalchuk (pictured sporting Ak Bars Kazan colors during 2004-05 season) to return home, he also argued that the situation would dissuade young KHL stars from crossing the Atlantic.

However, others are more cautious.

Syomin’s agent Mark Handler remains tight-lipped over the future of the Washington Capitals’ man. In an interview with Sovietsky Sport he dismissed reports of a $10 million-a-year contract with CSKA, and insisted that negotiating a new deal in DC was the top priority.

Vyacheslav Makhrensky, agent for several Russian goaltenders playing in the NHL, also urged caution. He pointed out that it made little sense to bring players to Russia for a month or two, only to have them return to their original clubs if the NHL season started later. Makhrensky said he would wait for the next round of negotiations before drawing conclusions about the likelihood and duration of any lock-out.

Handler also said that Yashin, who had been linked to a return to his native Yekaterinburg to play for Avotmobilist, was currently in New York preparing for the upcoming season and considering offers from unspecified NHL outfits.

Avangard Omsk’s newly appointed head coach Petri Manikainen is expected to welcome his first new player to the Siberian side soon. Reports in the Russian media suggest that Alexei Badyukov - three times a Russian champion with Ak Bars Kazan - is heading to the Gagarin Cup runner-up. The 34-year-old striker left CSKA at the end of last season.

Among the week’s confirmed deals, Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk announced that Team Russia goaltender Mikhail Biryukov has extended his contract, while SKA St. Petersburg has signed forward Konstantin Glazachev from Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

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