Ilya Kovalchuk’s decision to retire from the NHL at age 30, with the possible intent of signing in the KHL, is another reminder that there is indeed a “Russian Factor” in the NHL, and that teams certainly are wary of it.

Kovalchuk had signed a 15-year, $100 million deal with the Devils a couple of years back. He was a key part of their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012 (tallying 83 points in 77 games during the regular season and 19 points in 23 games in the playoffs). He was a huge part of the team, and his contract was one of the reasons the Devils lost Zach Parise in free agency last summer.

But after playing in the KHL during the lockout, Kovalchuk has decided to retire from the NHL and possibly return to the KHL.

Who can blame him. It’s home. He’ll make good money. He should be happier. It’s the smart thing for him to do.

But the problem is that it highlights the risk of drafting or signing a player from Russia. While there are signed agreements of transfer between the International Ice Hockey Federation, the NHL, and all of the other major leagues around the world, there is not one with the KHL. There has not been an official agreement since 2004. However, they agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding in 2011, and that still is in place.

So what does that mean? Well, that a lot of stuff goes on based on trust and faith. The Stars draft pick Valeri Nichushkin had two years remaining on his contract in the KHL when Chelyabinsk traded him to Moscow Dynamo at the end of last season. Dynamo knew Nichushkin wanted to play in the NHL and knew his draft stock would be hurt if he still had a contract, so Dynamo let him out of the remaining two years.

All teams received a memo before the draft that Nichushkin was free to sign an NHL contract. Dynamo let two years of guaranteed contract go just to do a player a favor. They trust that if he wants to come back to the KHL, Nishushkin will talk to them first.