News Notes: Players Heading Here & There

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Pavel Datsyuk. (Image Source)

Before we leap into the matter of major player of moves of the last little while, June 15th was the deadline for KHL teams to provide evidence that their wage bills for last season were paid off, with the threat of exclusion from the 2016-17 season hanging over those still in arrears.  Now, no one has been kicked out of the league to this point, but we did get some idea late in the week of what might be going on.  KHL Players’ Union President Andrei Kovalenko commented on Friday that he was particularly concerned about what was going on at HK Sochi and at Dynamo Moscow.  Sochi have had a number of brushes with financial trouble, and Dynamo have already been given an extension until June 30th to get things in order.  On the bright side, Kovalenko had earlier indicated that Amur Khabarovsk and Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod have paid off their arrears, and are presumably in the clear for next season.

 

There have also been some worries raised in the past few days about the ongoing viability of Dinamo Riga.  The problem here is not wage debt, but simply lack of sponsorship money, and the Latvian club has been given until the end of the month to provide the necessary financial guarantees for next season.

These are all situations to watch very closely as the days go by, but, in the meantime, let us turn our attention to some of the players who will be wearing new uniforms (or not) next season.  Read on!

One of the big names “in play” this summer has been Pavel Datsyuk, who suggested at the end of the NHL season that he wished to return to Russia for family reasons.  On Saturday, that became reality, as Datsyuk announced the 2015-16 NHL season was his last.  The 37-year-old from Yekaterinburg scored 1031 NHL points in 1110 NHL games (regular season and playoffs combined) for the Detroit Red Wings.  It is widely expected that he will be returning to his homeland in the colours of SKA St. Petersburg, although that remains to be determined for sure; Datsyuk himself was coy about it at Saturday’s presser, stating only that “all Russian cities are beautiful.”

Wherever Datsyuk signes, the move is obviously a major coup for the KHL; even at 37, and hampered by recent injuries, Datsyuk remains one of the game’s most exciting players to watch, fully deserving of his “Magic Man” nickname.  It’s a tough deal for the Red Wings, who will likely be left holding a $7.5 million cap hit for next season (unless they can trade his contract to an NHL team looking to reach the cap floor), but at the same time they can hardly complain about the service Datsyuk has given them down the years.

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The other famous player reportedly on the move has been Alexander Radulov.  The 29-year-old scored 81 points in 73 games for CSKA Moscow this season, and looks set to join his Red Army team-mate, newly-minted Toronto Maple Leaf Nikita Zaitsev, in North America.  However, we still await word on which NHL team, precisely, will get Radulov’s name on a contract; any number have been rumoured, and the picture remains fuzzy.  Radulov amassed 116 points in 172 games in his previous NHL stint over parts of three seasons with the Nashville Predators.

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Anna Shchukina in a quiet moment with Dynamo last season. (Image Source)

Not all of the big moves this summer have involved the KHL and/or NHL, as the Women’s Hockey League has also seen one of its star players switch teams.  Defender Anna Shchukina, who captained Russia’s national team to the bronze medal at this year’s World Championship, is on the move from Dynamo St. Petersburg to Agidel Ufa.  In league play, Shchukina was the WHL’s blueline scoring leader, posting 29 points in 24 games, and her move to Ufa probably makes the Bashkir side the early favourites to capture the 2016-17 championship (Agidel were runners-up to Tornado Moscow Oblast in 2015-16).  Not only will they have Shchukina, but their roster already includes the next two highest-scoring defenders in the league last year (Alexandra Kapustina and Anna Shibanova).  And we have even gotten to Agidel’s forward corps, where WHL scoring champion Olga Sosina plies her trade (many thanks to Denis Osipchuk for mentioning this story).

 

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On of the Spring’s more intriguing KHL moves does not involve a big name, either of player or of team; unheralded Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk have signed forward Aslan Raisov from Buran Voronezh of the VHL.  Raisov is 25 years old, and has yet to make his KHL debut, although he spent time in the Ak Bars Kazan system as a youth.  However, he won the VHL scoring title this season, with a line of 44 gp, 14-25-39, and also took home the Anatoly Firsov award as the league’s Most Outstanding Player as selected by his peers.  So there is at least a decent chance that Ugra have landed themselves a real catch.

What is particularly interesting about Raisov, however, is his origin.  Born in Grozny, he will become, when he takes the ice for Ugra this Fall, the KHL’s first Chechen player (at least as far as I can determine).  The Republic of Chechnya, in the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia, is best known in the West as the site of two dreadful civil wars in the 1990s and early 2000s.  The region’s recovery from those conflicts has been a long, slow, one, and is far from complete even today.  It is hard to see the emergence of one of Chechnya’s own in professional hockey as anything other than a positive sign, if only a small one, and Raisov will definitely be a player to follow in 2016-17.

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Raisov, in blue, controls the puck for Buran against Dynamo Balashikha in February, 2016. (Image Source)

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In addition to their above-mentioned debt problems, which have probably already cost them the services of hot-shot young defenceman Ziyat Paigin (more on that move in a subsequent post), HK Sochi may be in difficulties over a player they acquired.  Ukrainian forward Pavel Padakin was signed from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL in May, but a recent newspaper article raises doubts about Padakin’s official nationality and the role played by his agent, Igor Larionov, in getting him to the Black Sea coast.  Padakin is listed at Sochi’s website as Russian, and he apparently now has a Russian passport; this would suggest that team does not consider him as counting against the five-player import limit.

However, Padakin played for Ukraine as recently as 2014, and under IIHF rules, he must play in his new country for four years in order to qualify for the Russian national team.  Furthermore, the Russian Hockey Federation ruled recently that players who cannot play for Team Russia must be counted as imports.  All that may not matter too much at the moment; Sochi could switch Padakin’s status to “import” without going over the limit.  However, Padakin would be their fifth such player, by my count, which would have an impact on potential future signings from abroad.

The article also suggests that there were “irregularities” in the way Padakin attained his Russian passport, namely that he claimed residency at a time when he was playing hockey in North America.  That, however, is a matter for the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs to sort out, and this is all still very much alleged rather than proven.  For the time being, Padakin is an HK Sochi player (many thanks to Patricia Teter for the heads-up on this story).

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If, as expected, Pavel Datsyuk does sign with SKA, he will not be the only significant acquisition by the St. Petersburg giants in the last couple of weeks.  SKA have also signed forward Nikolai Prokhorkin from Salavat Yulaev Ufa.  Prokhorkin scored 21-22-43 in 74 games for the Ufa side in 2015-16, although he had only seven points in 19 playoff contests.  He is only 23 however, and not so long ago was very much on the radar of the Los Angeles Kings.  Given the talent he is likely to have on his side in St. Petersburg, he could prove a very useful addition indeed.

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There were a couple of interesting trades in the KHL in last few weeks, including one involving three teams and a couple of fairly big names.  Jokerit Helsinki traded forward Brandon Kozun, the team’s leading scorer in 2015-16 (64 gp, 18-37-55) to SKA St. Petersburg for Finnish forward Sakari Salminen, whose rights SKA had acquired from Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.  The 26-year-old Kozun was not with SKA for long, however; the St. Petersburg giants flipped him, along with young forward Alexander Kadeykin, to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl for the rights to forward Sergei Plotnikov.  Plotnikov spent last season in the NHL with Pittsburgh and Arizona, but saw limited ice-time, and recorded only three assists in 45 games.  Nonetheless, he has a well-established reputation as a solid two-way forward in the KHL from his earlier stint at Lokomotiv.  Recent rumours have already had him at SKA this season, and Saturday’s deal would seem to make that all the more likely.

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CSKA Moscow also made a trade, this one of interest primarily for historical reasons, when they sent prospect goalie Maxim Tretyak to Admiral Vladivostok in return for money.  Maxim, who is of course the grandson of the famous Vladislav, spent most of 2015-16 on the farm, making his professional debut as the backup goalie for VHL side Zvezda Chekhov, where he posted an unremarkable .889 save percentage in 13 games.  On the other hand, he stands 6’3″ and is only 19 years old, and goalie development is not an easy thing to predict.  Furthermore, it may not hurt him to be away from the pressure of Moscow and the club for which his grandfather had so many spectacular performances.  In any case, young Tretyak would appear to be third on Admiral’s depth chart at this point, behind Igor Bobkov and Ivan Nalimov; of course, that may change as the days go by.

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Kozun, meanwhile, is not the only North American making his way to Yaroslavl this off-season; Lokomotiv have also signed veteran Canadian forward Maxime Talbot.  Talbot, now 32 years old, is probably best remembered for scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09.  His best scoring season (81 gp, 19-15-34) came with Philadelphia in 2011-12.  Last year, he scored seven points in 38 games with the Boston Bruins, with another 21 coming in 26 outings for their AHL affiliate in Providence.

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Rob Klinkhammer. (Image Source)

One club that is starting to have a very interesting off-season is Dinamo Minsk.  The Belarusans missed the playoffs this past season after an impressive 2014-15 campaign, and the result has been wholesale changes in the lineup.  Gone are a number of mainstays from last season, including forward Jonathan Cheechoo, who will suit up for Slovan Bratislava next season.  Dinamo have not been slow in replacing their departed players; this week saw the team acquire Swedish forward David Ullström, who scored an excellent 16-12-28 in only 37 games for Sibir Novosibirsk last season.  Big winger Rob Klinkhammer, who spent the last season and a bit in the Edmonton Oilers system, has also signed on in Minsk; Klinkhammer managed one goal in 14 NHL games in 2015-16, but scored 14-10-24 in 27 AHL contests for Bakersfield.

As far as netminding is concerned, Jeff Glass has departed Dinamo, and while no replacements have yet been officially acquired, the team has reportedly been talking to Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson, another two players with recent ties to the Oilers.

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Sometimes things don’t work out as hoped, and so it has been with the career of Nikita Filatov, who was a sixth-overall NHL draft pick, so chosen in 2008 by the Columbus Blue Jackets.  However, he never really got traction in North America, despite good numbers in the AHL (90 gp, 32-32-64), and the last few seasons have seen him toiling as a journeyman KHLer (there were some off-ice difficulties, as you might imagine).  The 2015-16 campaign was a particularly tough one for Filatov; he managed only four assists in 26 games for Admiral Vladivostok and Dynamo Moscow, and ended the season in the VHL.  The coming season will see him suit up for his seventh different KHL team since he returned to Russia in 2011-12, when he dons the sweater of Lada Tolyatti.  The former blue-chip prospect recently gave an interview  wherein he did not spare himself from criticism over his rocky career path — it’s worth a read, even google-translated, and paints a sympathetic picture of a player who has generally been seen merely as an NHL draft bust.

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Alexander Syomin (#28 in blue) attacks the Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg net during this past season’s playoffs. (Image Source)

Finally, there are of course some players who aren’t going anywhere.  Of particular note here, Alexander Syomin (or Semin) has re-signed with Metallurg Magnitogorsk for another season.  It’s a good signing — Syomin scored 29 points in 43 games for Magnitka after coming over from the Montreal Canadiens early in the season, and he was a fairly key part of the team’s run to a second Gagarin Cup championship.

And, in an off-season that has seen them lose both Zaitsev and Radulov, it was important for CSKA Moscow to get some good news.  Mission accomplished, with the re-signing of forward Ivan Telegin.  It was an odd 2015-16 season for the 24-year-old; he scored only nine points in 41 regular season games for CSKA, which was hardly impressive, but then he had eight in only 18 playoff games.  And he not only made Russia’s World Championship team, but excelled, posting a line of a 4-2-6 in 10 games and earning kudos from none other than Vladislav Tretyak.  If the latter part of this season was indeed Telegin’s breakthrough, this will prove to be a very important signing for CSKA (the Winnpeg Jets, who hold Telegin’s NHL rights, are doubtless also watching with interest).

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We are now rapidly approaching the opening of KHL training camps, not to mention final decisions on what the league’s 2016-17 roster of teams will be.  Beginning next week, we’ll start to take a short look at each individual club, and at what significant moves they’ve made this off-season.  In the meantime, thank you for reading!

 

 

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Posted on June 20, 2016, in 2015-16, 2016-17, KHL, NHL, RWHL, VHL, Weekly News Notes, Women's Hockey. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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