If you ever looked at the KHL leaderboards and wondered whether Damir Zhafyarov would try his hand in North America, think again. The Russian forward has signed a new two-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg, one that keeps him under contract through April 30, 2024.
Zhafyarov, 28, has been one of the league’s most consistent offensive producers over the past few seasons, including a 61-point campaign in 2020-21 that put him third in the entire KHL. He followed it up with a 45-point 2021-22, good for fourth in the league, and will now join an SKA program known to be competitive every season.
His move from Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, where he had played the last four years, could actually be in response to a different move. SKA is set to lose top forward Andrei Kuzmenko–one of the three players who outscored Zhafyarov this season–to the NHL, as he is expected to sign a contract in the coming weeks. Kuzmenko, who scored 53 points this year, actually has worse overall numbers than Zhafyarov, and had never previously come close to a point-per-game season. He did however lead the St. Petersburg squad this year, meaning they needed to find a high-end replacement for him.
They’ve done so in Zhafyarov, though it remains a mystery whether he ever would have been able to put up strong numbers in North America. Notably, he stands just 5’9″ and is not a physical player, meaning the NHL may have proven too difficult. Either way, he’s now signed to a deal that will take him through his 30th birthday, suggesting a North American career is probably out of the question.