Among the names that ended up without an NHL contract this summer, Alexei Emelin stood out given his full season of games with the Nashville Predators in 2017-18. Emelin ended up playing 76 games for the Predators, but found himself without a deal until accepting a three-year contract back in the KHL with Avangard Omsk. Now 14 games into the KHL season, Emelin has told Igor Eronko of Sport-Express that he did receive a contract offer from an NHL team after all. The Washington Capitals apparently offered the veteran defenseman a contract, but he rejected it because it was only for one season.
Emelin was once a feared defender for the Montreal Canadiens, who could lay an open ice hit as well as almost anyone else in the league. In his first season in the NHL after coming over from the KHL, he recorded 236 hits in just 67 games and quickly developed a reputation on the ice. That physical style eventually led to him becoming a top option for the Canadiens, playing more than 20 minutes per night, and earned him a four-year, $16.4MM contract extension. Montreal though decided that he wasn’t worth protecting at the expansion draft, and the Vegas Golden Knights picked and then quickly flipped the big defenseman to Nashville where he’d serve as insurance for Ryan Ellis’ injury.
Even though that season in Nashville wasn’t disastrous, it wasn’t clear what the market for Emelin would be this summer. He obviously wasn’t a good option for any contending team’s top four, he wasn’t right handed, and his brand of physical hockey was being shifted away from—especially among defensemen. The fact that he obviously was looking for a multi-year contract isn’t surprising either, given his age of 32 and likely realization that it was his last chance for that kind of a contract. Returning home to the KHL was always an option, and if the Washington offer was the best he received in North America it’s clear why he’s no longer in the NHL.