Amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the exodus in the KHL continues. While many North American players had already left their respective Russia-based club and two non-Russian teams left the league altogether, perhaps the largest blow yet occurred Friday as European players across the KHL left their teams en masse. The move takes place as the Gagarin Cup playoffs are underway.
The Eastern Conference first round match-up between Salavat Yulaev Ufa and Sibir Novosibirsk will look decidedly different moving forward. Ufa, the No. 3 seed in the conference, announced that all of their import players have left the team. This includes names familiar to NHL fans like Markus Granlund, Teemu Hartikainen, and Philip Larsen. Granlund and fellow departure Sakari Manninen led the club in scoring this season. Novosibirsk revealed that a pair of former NHLers had left their ranks as well in goaltender Harri Sateri and defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka. Leading scorer Nick Shore had already left the team and is now joined by the starting goaltender and arguably their best defender. Perennial favorite CSKA Moscow is not immune to this movement; the team announced that they have lost recent NHL contributors Joakim Nordstrom and Lucas Wallmark, both of whom served in top-six roles. Finally, regular season champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk may have lost their title hopes with the departure of starting goaltender Juho Olkinuora. The former AHLer and University of Denver standout was among the best keepers in the KHL this season. This is not the extent of the departures of foreign players, nor will it be the last.
- There has been a flurry of activity in the AHL of late, headlined by an extension for veteran forward Tanner Fritz. The Hartford Wolf Pack announced that their plus/minus leader has inked a new contract for the 2022-23 season. Fritz, 30, has played his pro career almost exclusively in New York and Connecticut, spending five years with the New York Islanders and their affiliate in Bridgeport before moving to Hartford this season. While appreciative of a new contract, Fritz is probably eyeing a contract with the New York Rangers next, if possible. In Toronto, the Marlies have elevated NHL veteran Joseph Blandisi from a PTO to a contract for the remainder of the season. Blandisi, 27, has been a near point-per-game player for the Marlies this season and is well-deserving of a real contract. Down in Charlotte, the Checkers are bringing in some fresh blood from the junior ranks. Defenseman Robert Calisti of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and forward Xavier Cormier of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic have each signed two-year contracts with the club, beginning next season. The two combined for 72 points in 81 games this season and the Checkers hope that production translates to the pros.
- If it seems like all the action right now is outside of the NHL, while the trade market remains all bark and no bite, it’s true. Despite the usual speculation, there have been nearly no early moves made this season with the deadline just over two weeks away. Outside of Tyler Toffoli and Nick Ritchie/Ilya Lyubushkin, the only trades made of late have included future considerations, seventh-round picks, and third-string goaltenders. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the holdup on the market comes from the buyers rather than the sellers. He believes that the salary cap concerns, especially from those teams managing long-term injuries, is slowing deal-making. However, there may be hope that things will pick up soon, as LeBrun notes that sellers are getting antsy. Contenders with cap space, such as the Predators, Rangers, Wild, and Bruins, could be the beneficiaries if other cap-strapped teams continue to drag their feet.