3:50 pm: The deal is now official, the Vancouver Canucks announcing it via press release.
12:30 pm: The chase for the latest Russian free agent has ended, and the Vancouver Canucks have won. According to his agent Dan Milstein, Andrei Kuzmenko has agreed to sign with the Canucks to begin his career in North America. The free agent forward had interviewed with several teams after his eye-popping 2021-22 campaign for SKA St. Petersburg. Milstein notes that contract details are still being worked out. Because of his age and playing status, Kuzmenko will be limited to a one-year entry-level contract.
Kuzmenko, 26, had 20 goals and 53 points in just 45 regular season games, before then adding another 14 points in 16 postseason contests. He was named to the First All-Star Team at the end of the year and had teams falling over themselves trying to land his services for next year. Importantly, it will for now be only that one year, as Kuzmenko was limited to a one-year deal and will be an unrestricted free agent at the expiry of the contract.
That will limit the risk for the Canucks but also give him complete control over the direction of his NHL career, should it last longer than some of the other highly-touted Russian forwards in recent history.
A very skilled forward that has been a strong contributor for years, Kuzmenko’s game improved dramatically this season, to the point where he was one of the most dominant offensive forces in the league. Just five of his goals came on the powerplay, and he did all of his damage while averaging fewer than 17 minutes a night. It will be interesting to see what kind of opportunity he is given in Vancouver and whether or not he can bring that kind of production overseas.
The Canucks, led by president Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin, have put an emphasis on adding talent to the organization from non-traditional avenues such as undrafted international and college players. This is a major win for that direction, though it still remains to be seen how much of an impact Kuzmenko can really make at the NHL level.