In a new report from Slava Malamud, the KHL is considering closing the doors on five franchises this summer and reducing its league size to 24. The league has wild competition issues, with the top teams sometimes spending up to 800% more than the poorest teams according to Malamud. This comes right as the KHL itself released a statement about how “further improvement in the financial stability of the KHL” was reached this season.
Malamud lists Novokuznetsk, Ugra, Avtomobilist and Slovan as possibilities for contraction, while noting that Medvescak has already closed its doors. If these teams aren’t familiar to you, you’re not alone as many of them have basically been development and feeder teams for the richer and more successful franchises. Malamud also admits that Sochi is in trouble, though will likely avoid the foreclosure sign for now. As James Mirtle of The Athletic points out, perhaps this instability will make NHL players a bit more hesitant to try the KHL in the coming years.
- One player who will be tied over the coming months to the KHL is Evgeny Kuznetsov, who becomes a restricted free agent on July 1st. As Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet writes in his latest article, Kuznetsov was very forward when discussing with Craig Custance of ESPN the long negotiation countryman Nikita Kucherov had to go through last summer: “If I would be in [Kucherov’s] position, I would be signed in the KHL for sure. I would sign and say, ’Bye.’ I would buy a beach house and a couple Rolls-Royces.” That outlook may come to the forefront as Washington has trouble fitting in all their current restricted free agents. In addition to Kuznetsov, the Capitals will need to work out contracts with Dmitry Orlov, Andre Burakovsky, Brett Connolly and Nate Schmidt this summer with Philipp Grubauer also on the table should he not be selected in the expansion draft.
- 28-year old Mario Kempe has signed a one-year two-way deal with the Arizona Coyotes. The team did not release the financials. The older brother of Los Angeles Kings’ first-round pick Adrian Kempe, the Swedish forward has been playing in the KHL for the past three seasons. The winger had 34 points in 56 games this season and has been a consistent goal threat for his entire professional career. While he doesn’t have the upside that Adrian possesses, it would be another depth player to surround the young core Arizona is building, and it likely comes at very little cost.