While the IIHF recently announced an additional sanction on hockey in Russia, and the NHL has cut ties with the KHL, Russian players are still permitted to sign as free agents with NHL clubs. With the KHL season set to end shortly, KHL free agents seeking to cross the Atlantic and sign with an NHL team have come under the microscope. Perhaps the most attention has been paid to Andrei Kuzmenko, who is set to become a free agent on May 1st. Kuzmenko, 26, had 53 points in 45 games in this KHL campaign, along with 14 points in 16 playoff games. Kuzmenko’s offensive profile is tantalizing to many NHL teams, and since he is still just 26 years old it is not unreasonable to think there is room for him to grow.
Like many of the KHL free agents who came before him, Kuzmenko is expected to have a competitive market when he and his representatives choose to begin negotiations. On TSN’s Insider Trading program, TSN Hockey Insider Chris Johnston reported that next week Kuzmenko will begin the interview process with NHL teams. Johnston reports that it is believed that 20 NHL teams will reach out to Kuzmenko with at least “some degree of interest.” In terms of what factors may play into Kuzmenko’s decision-making process, Johnston says that Kuzmenko “wants to go somewhere where he can play, where he’s going to have a role,” and that the market and city a team plays in is a less important factor. That should certainly make the competition to secure Kuzmenko’s services a bit more wide-open, and given that he only costs a signing team cap space and no assets to acquire, there will likely be many fanbases across the NHL hoping their team can be the one to land this intriguing KHL veteran.
Now, some more snapshots from across the NHL:
- While Bruce Boudreau’s contract situation has been a major storyline in recent months, it seems the fears of a potential offseason departure for the 67-year-old Canucks skipper can be all but dismissed. In an interview with CHEK’s Don Taylor and Rick Dhaliwal, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman gave an update on Boudreau’s status. In his interview, Friedman states that Boudreau will return as Vancouver’s coach “if everybody is reasonable.” Friedman believes that as long as neither party is “being ridiculous,” as he terms it, then there should be no real issue securing an agreement on Boudreau’s return. Both the Canucks’ players and fanbase have responded extremely well to Boudreau’s coaching, and since he arrived in Vancouver the Canucks have been among the tougher teams to beat in the NHL. So while there may have once been fears of an offseason divorce for Boudreau and the Canucks, it now seems that there is very little chance of those fears becoming reality.
- Carey Price has made his return to the Montreal Canadiens, but that doesn’t mean his future is made any more certain. In another note from TSN’s Insider Trading program, TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun gave an update on Price’s status. LeBrun reports that Price “wants to play next season” as a number-one priority for him, but in order to do so, he needs to have full health in the injured knee that cost him so many games this season. According to LeBrun, not a certainty that Price’s knee can get there. Lebrun doesn’t cast any majorly pessimistic forecasts on Price’s health, but he does state that there is “a bit of uncertainty” to Price’s health situation that may complicate not only his future but also the future of the Canadiens.