The further into the summer it gets, the busier the transaction wire becomes. While the rumor mill has been heating up in recent days, there have been a fair share of confirmed moves as well that include names familiar to NHL fans and impacting NHL fans. Take a look:
- So much for the Alexander Khokhlachev comeback. The former Boston Bruins prospect whose NHL rights finally expire this off-season had previously hinted at a return to North America following five years in the KHL. When he walked away from the reigning Gagarin Cup champions Avangard Omsk, it only added fuel to the fire. However, it was all for not. Khoklachev has returned to former KHL club Spartak Moscow, the team has announced. It is only a one-year deal, so the speculation of an NHL return for the 27-year-old scoring center return next season. Yet, if Khokhlachev was ever going to make the jump, it seemed that this was his chance given years of sustained success capped off with a title and his newfound free agency. It could be Khokhlachev simply stays in Russia for the rest of his career.
- Jori Lehtera is also not returning to North America, though it should come as no surprise. Lehtera’s production decreased continually through his NHL career and fell off immensely following a move to the Philadelphia Flyers from the St. Louis Blues in 2017. Between poor play and off-ice issues, he seemingly wore out his welcome in North America. Upon returning to Europe last season, he immediately re-discovered his scoring touch in the KHL and scored at better than a point-per-game pace for Spartak this year, leading the team. Spartak has rewarded him with a one-year extension. The 33-year-old will take that short-term commitment, especially with the likes of Khokhlachev and Vasili Ponomaryov joining him in Moscow next season to potentially make the team could be a surprise contender.
- Cole Clayton has signed a one-year deal with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and while you might not know his name yet, you could soon. The big, mobile, two-way defenseman from the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers led all league defensemen with nine goals and 30 points this season in just 23 games. At 6’2″, 210 lbs. but able to skate at a high level, Clayton is an impact player all over the ice and surely had some NHL interest before settling for a job with Cleveland. If his play translates to the pros, it is a safe bet that the Columbus Blue Jackets will have him signed to an entry-level deal sooner rather than later. The Monsters also announced the signings of veteran forwards Brett Gallant and Adam Helewka for next season.
Is Lehtera allowed through customs? I would guess he’s never coming back to North America.
South America, maybe.