The KHL season came to close last week, as CSKA Moscow took home the Gagarin Cup for the second time in four years. Now the offseason has begun, but roster building in the KHL this summer will not be as easy as most years. Due to the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, which has caused teams and foreign players alike to flee the KHL, teams must first determine which import players are staying, regardless of contract status, before they can determine the holes they need to fill. Two such departing players, both of whom have contracts in place for 2022-23, have been revealed. Russian source Championat reports that NHL veterans Steven Kampfer and Oscar Dansk will both be released by their respective KHL teams.
Kampfer, 33, was playing in his very first season outside of North America in 2021-22, moving on from seven consecutive seasons with at least one NHL game played to sign with Ak Bars Kazan on a one-year deal. Kampfer was enjoying a terrific start to the season in the KHL when he signed a one-year extension in December, at which time Kazan indicated their hope that he would be around for more than just 2022-23 as well. Of course, this new deal arrived before the invasion of Ukraine, which shifted the status quo for many imports and Kampfer was no different. While he continued to excel on the ice, finishing with 30 points in 46 games and four points in six playoff games, the Championat article implies that Kampfer only stayed with the team through the postseason to facilitate his release from his next contract with Ak Bars. Now that the season is over, the two sides have agreed to move forward with a termination.
Dansk, 28, signed a two-year contract with Spartak Moscow last summer after playing the previous three seasons with the Vegas Golden Knights organization. Dansk ultimately ended up losing the starting job to Alexei Krasikov, but still performed well in 17 regular season appearances. However, it was Dansk and not Krasikov who got the call in the postseason as the hot hand late in the year. Dansk was stellar in five appearances, recording a .933 save percentage and 1.73. Yet, Dansk also seems to have wanted to depart the team well before the playoffs but felt he could not. Championat quotes the netminder as saying he felt “stuck” by the terms of his two-year deal, which required he pay back salary from year one if he did not honor year two. Dansk says that his agent is now working to resolve the issue, but that he definitively is not returning to Russia.
As both Kampfer and Dansk last played on NHL contracts before jumping to the KHL, they could look to return this offseason. However, with each having found success overseas this season, they might also stay in Europe, with Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland all providing opportunities for elite pro play and should be even stronger next season with the exodus of import players from the KHL.