8 NHL Players Who Could Leave For The KHL In 2017-18
NHL teams have seen success after adding former KHL players, including Chicago's Artemi Panarin and Toronto's Nikita Zaitsev, and the new expansion franchise in Las Vegas made headlines last month with the signing of Vadim Shipachyov.
A 30-year-old centerman, Shipachyov was a consistent KHL scorer and fielded significant interest from various teams before inking a two-year deal with the Vegas Golden Knights.
But the KHL has also developed into a league for disgruntled and frustrated NHL players as well as fringe roster players who want more than minor league action. A year ago, Valeri Nichushkin left the Dallas Stars for the KHL, and the Vancouver Canucks recently lost Nikita Tryamkin and Philip Larsen to KHL deals in April. Former Edmonton center Anton Lander became the latest to leave, signing with AK Bars of the KHL in late May.
This summer will undoubtedly be packed full of action. Between the expansion draft, a likely stagnant salary cap, a weaker free agency class, and the rising doubtfulness of Olympic participation, there are plenty of questions left for both organizations and individual players, alike, to answer.
Additional offseason movement will come from players taking the same route as Tryamkin, Larsen, and Lander to find bigger roles with other organizations, which just may be in other leagues. Here are some players to keep an eye on for potential KHL deals:
Alexey Marchenko (D)Career Stats: 121 GP, 4 G, 17 A, 21 Pts., Plus-5
Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Marchenko was claimed on waivers from the Detroit Red Wings on February 4. The 25-year-old was a favorite of Mike Babcock's during his coaching days in Detroit, and some expected Babcock to use Marchenko as a full-time defenseman in Toronto.
But it wasn't until February 23 that Marchenko would play his first game in a Maple Leafs sweater. The right-shot defenseman then played the following 10 games, registering a goal and an assist, averaging just 13:07 of ice time in that span.
Marchenko has been a steady defensive presence during his NHL days, but his inability to land a regular roster spot and small offensive upside could see him find a steadier job in the KHL and a chance to make Russia's Olympic team in 2018.
Jonas Gustavsson (G)Team: Edmonton Oilers
Career Stats: 179 GP, 72 W, 2.88 GAA, .901 SV%, 7 SO
At 32 years old, Gustavsson's hope for becoming a starting goaltender in the NHL is coming to an end. The Swede has played for three different teams over the past three seasons and failed to cement himself as a reliable backup with each team.
Part of Gustavsson's downfall has been his recurring groin injuries, which limited him to just seven starts in each of the 2012-13, 2014-15, and 2016-17 seasons.
In recent years, there has been an influx of young goalies stealing starting jobs and creating a plethora of goaltending depth on the market. Gustavsson's career numbers will put him far down the list for teams looking for help in the crease, and he'll struggle to find a job in the NHL next season.
Nail Yakupov (RW)Team: St. Louis Blues
Career Stats: 292 GP, 53 G, 67 A, 120 Pts., Minus-91
The first overall pick in 2012, Yakupov has struggled to live up to his draft position. Edmonton traded the speedy Russian to St. Louis before the start of the 2016-17 season.
The fresh start didn't help Yakupov much, as he continued to be a defensive liability with little offensive upside. He played 40 games with the Blues, scoring just three goals and nine points alongside a minus-6 rating.
Yakupov was vocal about his time in Edmonton and said when he joined the Oilers at 18 that he felt left out and lonely in a foreign country. Just 23 now, Yakupov still holds enough skill and years to rediscover his game in his homeland.
Jakub Kindl (D)Team: Florida Panthers
Career Stats: 331 GP, 16 G, 58 A, 74 Pts., Plus-14
Kindl struggled to hold onto a regular lineup spot during his 7 1/2 seasons with Detroit. He never played more than 66 games in a single season and averaged 15:15 per game during his tenure.
The former 19th overall pick showed some offense but couldn't quite handle the defensive side of the game with the Red Wings. He was traded to Florida in February 2016 for a 2017 sixth-round pick.
In 58 games with the Panthers, Kindl has no goals and six assists with a minus-1 rating. Kindl played 39 games with Florida in 2016-17, chipping in four assists and a minus-11 rating. On a young Panthers roster, only Keith Yandle is older than Kindl and his game is far stronger than Kindl's.
Teemu Pulkkinen (LW)Team: Minnesota Wild
Career Stats: 83 GP, 13 G, 9 A, 22 Pts., plus-5
Pulkkinen has been one of the best goalscorers in the AHL over the past three seasons but has struggled to play at the NHL level. When an opponent looks to stop the 5-foot-9 winger, Pulkkinen usually shies away, often losing the puck in the process.
His one-timer is compared to Alex Ovechkin's, but Pulkkinen doesn't bring the same upside or skill as the game's greatest goalscorer. Pulkkinen was a fan favorite in Detroit and caused an uproar when he was claimed off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings.
But Pulkkinen once again failed to stick in Minnesota and quickly wound up back in the AHL. At 25, the sniper could find more time and space to use his strengths in the KHL, where the game is less physical than North America.
Nikita Zadorov (D)Team: Colorado Avalanche
Career Stats: 145 GP, 4 G, 24 A, 28 Pts., Minus-39
Zadorov was brought in by Colorado in the Ryan O'Reilly trade from 2015. The former 16th overall pick hasn't quite adapted to the NHL. But the recently turned 22-year-old has both been learning the hardest position while being stuck on some of the worst statistical teams of the past four years.
Zadorov still has a lot of untapped potential but finds himself on this list due to his lack of a contract and reported mutual interest in the KHL. It's hard to blame him due to his lack of success and widely noted struggles.
But with better talent and a dedication to continue to learn and get better, Zadorov can still become a formidable defenseman in the NHL.
Tomas Jurco (LW)Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Career Stats: 172 GP, 16 G, 24 A, 40 Pts., Minus-12
For whatever reason, Jurco is the fourth former Red Wings player on this list. He became a YouTube star in 2011 with fantastic stickhandling videos, but those clips put high expectations on the then-18-year-old from both fans and management, alike.
Jurco showed promise during his 36-game rookie stint during the 2013-14 season. He scored eight goals and 15 points in that span as a 21-year-old with brilliant flashes of play. Jurco has only regressed since then.
He was traded to Chicago earlier this year for a third-round pick due to his untapped offense and ability to be a project player for a Chicago team that has had successful experiments in the past. But Jurco went minus-4 with one goal and no assist in 13 games with the Blackhawks.
Fedor Tyutin (D)Team: Colorado Avalanche
Career Stats: 872 GP, 55 G, 209 A, 264 Pts., minus-53
A veteran of more than 800 NHL games, Tyutin's NHL career could be coming to an end. During his mid-20s, the heavy-hitting defenseman could be counted on for high-20s in points and drive play up the ice.
During his past three seasons, the 33-year-old has struggled defensively (minus-23), offensively (five goals, 31 points in 197 games) and possession-wise (47.7 CF%).
After a dismal 2015-16 season with Columbus, Tyutin is coming off of a slightly resurgent year while playing for the league's worst team in Colorado, no less. Tyutin is owed just north of $1.45 million in each of the next three seasons after Columbus bought out the remaining two years of his contract last summer.
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