Another center option is off the market, but David Desharnais isn’t going anywhere in the NHL. The diminutive center is headed overseas to join HC Lokomotiv in the KHL on a one-year contract. Iiro Pakarinen and Patrice Cormier have also signed one-year deals in the KHL, for Magnitogorsk and Barys Astana respectively. Victor Antipin, after trying one season with the Buffalo Sabres, is back with Magnitogorsk for three more seasons. Anton Slepyshev has also returned, signing a two-year contract with CSKA.
The KHL has become a landing spot for plenty of players unwilling to return to the minor leagues, but it’s kind of surprising that Desharnais decided so quickly to take his talents overseas. Scoring 28 points for the New York Rangers last season, he’s still only 31 and is a fine bottom-six center in the NHL. Perhaps he doesn’t want to play that type of role, as he’ll likely get much more ice time even powerplay experience in the KHL. Desharnais remember was once a 60-point player in the NHL, and put up some legendary seasons in the QMJHL as a junior player. There is plenty of offensive talent in his game, something that was unlikely to show playing 12 minutes a night on the fourth line.
Antipin’s departure from Buffalo is a bit disappointing, given that he actually was fairly successful in his limited role there last season. Though he only played a little over 15 minutes a night in his 47 games, he looked like there could be a future for him in the NHL as a two-way defenseman. Instead, he’ll return to the KHL where he can continue to log big minutes for Magnitogorsk. There’s no guarantee that he doesn’t attempt to come back in three seasons, and since the Sabres didn’t extend him a qualifying offer he will be free to sign with whoever he wants.