Despite rumors that he had signed in the KHL because of his appearance on the Traktor Chelyabinsk roster page, Nikita Nesterov still wants to play in the NHL next season. Dan Milstein, Nesterov’s agent with Gold Star, confirmed as much on Twitter today claiming that the rumors were “absolutely false.” Nesterov remains an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent with the Montreal Canadiens.
Nesterov was acquired by the Canadiens in January for Jonathan Racine and a sixth-round pick, but played just 13 games down the stretch and two in the playoffs. The 24-year old has now played 132 games in his short career, and has generally performed well. While he hasn’t become the top-4 defenseman that Tampa Bay hoped at one point, his play does deserve an NHL contract in the future.
A qualifying offer for the defenseman would cost the Canadiens just over $761K, which would also allow them to retain his rights even if he does head to Russia for next season. He is also eligible for selection in the expansion draft, and doesn’t project to be protected by the Canadiens. He’s at little risk of being selected, as there are other defensemen on the team who would be more appetizing for the expansion team. We’ll see if he reaches an agreement with the Canadiens, as they look to reshape their defense with players like Jakub Jerabek.