The deadline for teams in the KHL to trade and sign players came and went yesterday, but not without some intriguing moves involving several former NHLers. Outside of the previously reported Michal Cajkovsky signing, several other notable names changed hands. After trading former Nashville Predators top prospect Taylor Beck to Avangard Omsk, the Kunlun Red Star were quick to replace him. Kunlun inked Drew Shore, who played briefly with the Vancouver Canucks just two years ago, to a contract for the remainder of the season. While Beck had been the team’s leading scorer with 22 points through 39 games, Shore is no slouch either. With the ZSC Lions of the NLA, Shore had ten points in 16 games before departing for the Red Star. He was also one of the top scorers in Switzerland in 2016-17 at nearly a point per game. Martin St. Pierre, who played eight seasons in North America with five different organizations, also signed with Kunlun ahead of the deadline. Elsewhere, former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Geoff Kinrade signed on with Severstal Cherepovets, as arguably the worst team in the league looks for answers on the blue line.
- As it pertains to the current NHL, perhaps the most intriguing move at the KHL deadline was the return for the aforementioned Beck. In exchange for sending their leading scorer to Avangard Omsk, the top team in their own division, Kunlun received the rights to Swedish forward Axel Holmstrom. However, Holmstrom is currently under contract with the Detroit Red Wings. A seventh-round pick back in 2017, Holmstrom is in just his second full pro season in North America, played entirely with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. While there is no concrete indication yet that the young forward is thinking of retreating back to Europe, there tends to be fire where there is smoke when it comes to these transactions in the KHL, just as there was when Cajkovksy’s rights were acquired by Dynamo Moscow earlier this season. Especially considering the fact that the Red Star surrendered their leading scorer to acquire just one piece, and an abstract piece at that, there would seem to be at least some optimism that Holmstrom is considering a jump to the KHL. While Holmstrom, 22, has been productive in the minor leagues, he has yet to get a sniff of opportunity in Detroit and may be cherishing the though of a lead role in Kunlun next season.
- A familiar name is back in North America for the first time in five years. The ECHL’s Maine Mariners announced today that they have signed 34-year-old Hannu Toivonen to a contract for the remainder of the season. Toivonen was a first-round pick of the Boston Bruins back in 2002 and spent four years with the organization. He was then traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Carl Soderberg and went on to start a career-high 23 NHL games with the team in 2007-08. Toivonen also suited up briefly for the Chicago Blackhawks and various AHL and ECHL squads before returning to Europe in 2014. Before the nostalgic get too excited about a potential NHL comeback, Toivonen was a stable option in his native Finland for several years after heading back across the Atlantic, but struggled at stops in Austria and Denmark last season and has had difficulty finding work this year. While his name alone brings some intrigue and perhaps some added ticket revenue for the Mariners, this is likely just one of the final stops in a long career of a well-traveled goaltender.