Steven Kampfer’s NHL playing days may very well be over. The veteran defenseman has decided not to wait for the NHL market to open later this month, opting to make the move overseas. The KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan have announced a one-year contract with Kampfer, who will be playing outside of North America for the first time. Kampfer, who is set to turn 33 in September, has served as a depth player for much of his career and may find it difficult to earn another NHL contract following this move.
Kampfer is best known for his two stints with the Boston Bruins, both to begin his NHL career and now likely to end it as well. The University of Michigan product played nine years in the league with four teams, but was never better than in his rookie season with Boston in 2010-11, when he recorded career highs in points and time on ice in 38 games. Kampfer was traded to the Minnesota Wild the following season, the first of five trades in his career that led to stints with the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers (twice) as well. The most recent trade came in 2018, when he returned to Boston from the Rangers as part of a package for former teammate Adam McQuaid. Kampfer played well in his depth role over the last three years, proving leadership in the AHL but performing when called upon in the NHL as well.
However, Kampfer’s departure from the Bruins is not at all unexpected. It was in the midst of Boston’s playoff run this season that it was first leaked that Kampfer was negotiating with Ak Bars and seemed likely to sign with the team. Ironically (or perhaps not so ironically), just a few days later the team announced that Kampfer would undergo season-ending hand surgery. With Kampfer missing his second consecutive postseason, when Boston has needed blue line depth both years, combined with his early planning to depart, it all but guaranteed that he would not return to the Bruins.
Joining Kazan, Kampfer will undoubtedly play in a greater role than he did with Boston and perhaps at any time in his NHL career. However, it is unknown if he will be able to top his expiring two-year, one-way 1.6MM contract. Nevertheless, he joins a talented roster that includes recent Bruins teammate Par Lindholm and other former NHLers and NHL prospects, while Montreal Canadiens forward Jordan Weal is also expected to officially sign once his season is over. Ak Bars has Gagarin Cup hopes this season and could look to Kampfer as their veteran leader to show them the way.