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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kovalev, Jagr Join Russian League

TORONTO -- Alexei Kovalev became the latest NHL player to join a Russian team during the lockout, following New York Rangers star Jaromir Jagr, who announced earlier Monday that he had signed for Omsk Avangard.

Kovalev, an unrestricted free agent, is joining Russia's AK Bars Kazan.

He played with Lada Togliatti of the Russian league during the 1994-95 lockout.

"There doesn't seem to be any reason to believe the lockout will end so he just decided he wanted to play some hockey," Kovalev's agent, Scott Greenspun, said Monday.

Kovalev had 45 points in 78 games with the Rangers and Montreal last season. In the playoffs, he had 10 points in 11 games, leading the Canadiens to a first-round upset of Boston.

Kovalev joins a Kazan lineup loaded with NHL talent. The team signed Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier last Thursday and is close to doing the same with Brad Richards, Lecavalier's friend and teammate. Lecavalier will report to Kazan on Nov. 23.

Kaza already has Ilya Kovalchuk of Atlanta, Nik Antropov of Toronto, Darius Kasparaitis of the New York Rangers, Ruslan Salei of Anaheim, Fred Brathwaite of Columbus, Denis Arkhipov of Nashville and Alexei Morozov of Pittsburgh.

Kazan, owned by an oil company and in the far east of Russia, is celebrating the 1,000-year anniversary of the Tatarstan republic. The team is intent on winning the Russian league in honor of the celebration.

Meanwhile, Czech winger Jagr of the New York Rangers is leaving the Czech league to play for Omsk, the Czech daily newspaper Sport said Monday. More than 50 Czech players, including stars Milan Hejduk, Patrik Elias and Tomas Vokoun, have returned home during the lockout.

Jagr's coach, Marian Jelinek, said he would join the Russian team, currently in 12th position at home, by the end of next week.

The 32-year-old-Jagr, who wears shirt number 68 to symbolize his opposition to the 1968 Soviet invasion of the former Czechoslovakia, is joining a number of other NHL players lured by the Russian Superleague, the richest competition outside the United States and Canada.

He dominated the Czech league, scoring 11 goals and 17 assists in just 17 matches for Kladno this season.

Jelinek told Czech news agency CTK that Jagr had agreed terms with Avangard until the end of the season, although his contract included a clause that provided for his immediate release if the NHL stoppage ended.

"I want to try it, maybe I'll be back within a month," Sport quoted Jagr as saying.

(AP, Reuters)