Blackhawks prospect Maxim Shalunov has been in the system for quite a while without ever playing a game in a Chicago uniform. It appears that may be changing relatively soon. Shalunov’s agent Shumi Babaev told Scott Powers of The Athletic (subscription required) that right now, the plan is for the winger to sign in Switzerland to start next season. However, he adds that the hope is that Chicago will sign him following the completion of the 2019-20 campaign and that Shalunov would leave his Swiss team to join the Blackhawks once the 2020-21 season gets underway.
The 27-year-old was a fourth-round pick of Chicago (109th overall) back in 2011 and actually has made the jump to North America before. He signed a minor league contract for 2013-14 and it didn’t go well as he had just four assists without scoring a goal in 20 games for AHL Rockford and wound up spending most of the year with ECHL Toledo. Not surprisingly, he went back to Russia after that.
The Blackhawks have been able to retain his rights this long because Shalunov was picked out of Russia. There is no Player Transfer Agreement in place between the NHL and Russia’s hockey federation so the usual four-year rights limitation doesn’t apply; instead, they’ve been able to hold his rights indefinitely.
But his fortunes have changed over the last four seasons. Instead of being a depth player in the KHL, he has become a relatively consistent producer, tallying at least 25 points in each of the last five years including 14 goals and 11 assists in 54 games with CSKA Moscow this season. That has him back on the NHL radar as someone that could potentially help Chicago on one of their lower lines.
Despite his age, Shalunov will be capped in the entry-level system where he will only be able to sign a one-year contract. Assuming that it happens and that he joins the Blackhawks for next season, he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2021.
Babaev also provided an update on another international Chicago prospect in Ivan Nalimov. It appears that the goaltender is also going to sign to start next season overseas in the hopes of earning a deal with the Blackhawks although his likely destination in that instance would be Rockford and not Chicago.