It was somewhat surprising when veteran defenseman Steven Kampfer got a jumpstart on his free agency this summer by signing in the KHL before the NHL market had even opened. Kampfer was coming off of a 20-game season with the Boston Bruins, bringing his career NHL games played total to 231. While used mostly as a depth option in his career, the 33-year-old had proven himself as a dependable puck-mover in a pinch. For whatever reason, Kampfer decided to move on from that role and inked a one-year deal with Ak Bars Kazan, putting his NHL future in doubt.
Well, it seems Kampfer wasn’t thinking too much about an NHL future anyhow. Playing outside of North America for the first time, Kampfer has excelled with Kazan, recording 17 points in 36 games for the third-best mark on the team right now and on pace for a career high in single season production in his pro career. While Ak Bars currently sits tenth in the KHL league standings, they are in the bottom third of the league in scoring making Kampfer’s contributions even more valuable. The team had decided to show their appreciation with an extension, locking up Kampfer for one more year. The team announced a new one-year deal with their “leader”, with the team release calling him one of the best defenders in the KHL.
Ak Bars also slipped in an “at least” when talking about Kampfer’s one-year extension, so his KHL career could still be far from over. If the veteran keeps producing and wants to keep playing, it seems he has found a home in Kazan. While this all but puts an end to a possible NHL return, it is nice to see Kampfer get the recognition that he wasn’t always shown in North America. The University of Michigan product played nine years in the NHL 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. Traded five different times, much of Kampfer’s career shortcoming can be attributed to a lack of opportunity and loyalty. He has seemingly found both in the KHL.