Long-time Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin agreed to terms this morning with Avangard Omsk, one day after the KHL team signed Kris Versteeg. The 32-year-old Emelin, who played six years in Montreal and then finished out his contract last year with the Nashville Predators, was having trouble finding work in the NHL, but opted to return to the KHL where he played parts of eight seasons.
Emelin arrived in the NHL at age 25, but almost immediately stepped into the Canadiens’ top-four and averaged close to 20 minutes a night throughout most of his NHL career. However, Montreal opted to expose Emelin and his $4.1MM contract in the expansion draft last year and Vegas took the bait, selecting him and then flipping him to Nashville for a third-round pick in the 2019 draft. The Predators brought the veteran defenseman on board to provide top-four depth while Ryan Ellis sat out for the first three months of the season after undergoing knee surgery. Emelin did that, but saw his minutes decrease significantly once Ellis returned as he was forced into the team’s third-line pairing.
Once a free agent, the 32-year-old struggled finding work as his lack of speed worked against him in a league where teams are looking to get faster. Emelin, however, showed he still has value as he managed to register 181 hits as well as blocking 109 shots last season, suggesting he should continue to fare well in the KHL. While Emelin will join Versteeg, he will also join up with two former Habs as well, including Alexander Perezhogin and David Desharnais.