As expected, Bogdan Kiselevich has returned home to Russia as soon as he could. The 29-year-old defenseman is back with CSKA Moscow after just one year in the NHL, as the team announced a new three-year deal. Kiselevich was clearly not impressed by his usage in North America, as word got out quickly after the season that he would return to the KHL, before even testing the NHL market. In his “rookie” season, Kiselevich played in 32 games with the Florida Panthers and contributed eight assists. Although some of his other underlying numbers suggested that Kiselevich was being underutilized in Florida, he worked mostly as the team’s No. 7. He was then traded to the Winnipeg Jets at the NHL Trade Deadline, slotting even lower in their depth chart, and did not play a single game in the regular season or postseason. Seeing as a fully healthy Kiselevich played just one game after January, it’s understandable that he was happy to return to a top role for an elite KHL club loaded with former NHLers.
- Count Zack Mitchell as another NHL castoff looking for a larger role in the KHL. After skating in 34 NHL games between two seasons with the Minnesota Wild in 2016-17/2017-18, Mitchell was relegated to the AHL for this entire past campaign after signing with the Los Angeles Kings last summer. Still a relatively young player at 26 who also has consistent AHL production and NHL experience, Mitchell likely felt he could do better. As a result, Mitchell has signed a one-year contract with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL, the team announced. A team that missed the playoffs last season and has few elite players or familiar NHL faces, Neftekhimik needs a elite addition and hopes Mitchell can fill that role. If he can lead them back to the Gagarin Cup stage behind a highly productive season, Mitchell will likely be able to find a deal back in North America next year.
- The Detroit Red Wings took a shot on young Slovakian goaltender Patrik Rybar last season after he had dominated the Slovakian and Czech pro ranks for several years. However, he ended up not getting much use as the fourth-string keeper in the organization. Rybar played in 37 AHL games and did not see any NHL action. In his minor league appearances, he also failed to put up the stupendous numbers that may have attracted another NHL suitor, posting a .908 save percentage and 2.49 GAA. Fortunately, those numbers were enough to turn heads in other major European leagues. Rybar has opted to sign with Karpat of the Finnish Liiga, the team announced. Karpat was the top team in the Liiga last year through the regular season and their play in net from Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Veini Vehvilainen and former NHLer Jussi Rynnas played no small role. With both of those keepers now gone, the Karpat net looks to belong to Rybar, with promising young goalie Justus Annunen, a Colorado Avalanche draft pick, as backup.
- Mark McNeill’s precipitous drop from relevance continued last season and he is taking a drastic measure to rediscover his game. A 2011 first-round pick, McNeill was considered the top prospect of the Chicago Blackhawks for many years. Yet, to date he has just two NHL appearances to his credit. However, the heavy forward still put up good numbers in the minors in the Blackhawks’ and Dallas Stars’ systems. That is, until the past two years, when McNeill bounced around from Dallas to Nashville to Boston and posted back-to-back career lows of 25 points. Now, he must repair his image and show he can be a reliable scorer and has chosen Austria as the place to do just that. McNeill has signed with EHC Linz of the EBEL, the Black Wings announced. Linz counts Bracken Kearns and Justin Florek as their only other NHL veterans, so the opportunity will be there for McNeill to be the teams’s best player next season.