How big a threat to the NHL is the KHL these days?

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Luring stars like Alex Ovechkin away from the NHL won't be easy. (KHL Photo Agency/Getty Images)

Luring stars like Alex Ovechkin away from the NHL won't be easy. (KHL Photo Agency/Getty Images)

The changing landscape

Blackhawks player development director Barry Smith has coached in the KHL.

Blackhawks player development director Barry Smith has coached in the KHL.

NHL teams are wary of Russian players, though Dallas drafted Valeri Nichushkin (43) this year. (Getty)

NHL teams are wary of Russian players, though Dallas drafted Valeri Nichushkin (43) this year. (Getty)

There is little doubt that hockey remains very popular in Russia and the other countries into which the KHL has expanded. Fans will gladly support whatever is played in their towns although their economic circumstances can't float the boat. And that one-year deal with PepsiCo won't change the KHL's fiscal portrait, although it might be the beginning of something that will. But until that changes, it's hard to imagine the hockey landscape shifting more and more in the KHL's direction.