A top KHL free agent will remain in Russia, at least for now. The Athletic’s Scott Powers reports that forward Maxim Shalunov is set to sign a three-year contract with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. A draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2011, Shalunov remains property of the club and was exploring a move to the NHL this off-season.
Shalunov’s future remains unknown despite the long-term deal. Powers notes that the 28-year-old has an out clause in his new contract with Lokomotiv, allowing him to move to the NHL next season if a contract can be found. A potential NHL deal also may not be in Chicago; the Blackhawks gave Shalunov permission earlier this summer to discuss a contract with other teams and were willing to facilitate a trade to help him land in the NHL. While nothing came to fruition, Powers reports that Shalunov did have at least one offer from an NHL team and it was not Chicago. The Blackhawks are believed to not have the cap space and roster flexibility to accommodate the KHL star this season, but his other suitor was a team that Shalunov did not wish to play for. Shalunov’s agent assured Powers that his intention is still to one day play with Chicago if the two sides can work it out.
Since his first stint in North America, a 2013-14 campaign split between the AHL and ECHL, Shalunov has blossomed into an elite scorer in the KHL. The big, skilled center has recorded 104 goals and 197 points in 355 career KHL games. The 2020-21 season was arguably his best, recording 35 points and a +20 rating in 52 games and another 18 points in 22 playoff games. Shalunov appears ready to take on the NHL, but will spend at least one more season in the KHL as he searches for the best way to make the jump.