Given the relatively weak NHL free agent market and the financial instability of the KHL, it would not have been a surprise to see an influx of talent come overseas this off-season. When Vadim Shipachyov signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in June, it seemed that floodgates were about to open. Yet, one month later, it’s been quite the opposite. Other than Shipachyov’s SKA St. Petersburg teammate Evgeni Dadonov signing with the Florida Panthers, most big names in the KHL have re-signed, while others in North America have crossed over. Already, Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Nesterov have left the NHL for a return to Russia, as have Sergey Kalinin and Roman Lyubimov; prospects Nikita Gusev, Kirill Kaprizov, Vladislav Gavrikov, and Ilya Sorokin have decided to stay put, and so too have former NHLers playing overseas like Ben Scrivens, Paul Szczechura, and of course Ilya Kovalchuk; and even Nashville Predator’s first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen, spurned by Boston College, has signed in the KHL.
- Joining the trend of former NHLers staying in the KHL and joining Tolvanen with Helsinki, Finland-based club Jokerit is defenseman Matt Gilroy. The team announced the signing this morning, inking one of the KHL’s top-scoring blue liners to a one-year deal. Gilroy, 32, is a former Boston University standout who played in 225 NHL games over six seasons with the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators, and Florida Panthers. Unable to ever find a long-term home or lock down a regular role, Gilroy crossed the Atlantic in 2014 and has never looked back. Gilroy had the best season of his professional career in 2016-17, but nonetheless decided to stick it out overseas.
- NHL veteran and four-time 20-goal scorer Derek Roy has bucked the trend of staying in the KHL, but he’s also not heading back to the NHL next season either. Roy continues his tour around Europe, as he has left Russia to sign in Sweden. Roy originally left the NHL to sign in Switzerland with the NLA’s SC Bern in 2015, and after a strong campaign, took a step up to the KHL. Roy played 21 games with Avangard Omsk last year before a mid-season trade sent him to Traktor Chelyabinsk for 34 games and the postseason. Altogether, Roy posted just 11 goals and 11 assists in the KHL last year, a drop off from his production in the NLA and from his NHL days as well. Roy will try his hand at the SHL this season, after signing with Linkoping HC, and will try to boost his offense back toward the 30+ point mark that he hit in the NLA and annually reached in the NHL, even at the end. At 34 years old, Roy is still trying to make the most of his ability overseas, but the door is not closed for a member of the NHL’s 500-point club to eventually try to make his North American comeback
- CSKA fans shouldn’t get their hopes up, but KHL insider Aivis Kalnins is reporting that the club has a deal in place with young Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov if the restricted free agent cannot come to terms on a new NHL deal. The news has gained traction today, but seems unlikely to be anything more than jsut a negotiation tactic. The 22-year-old blue liner is from Moscow, where CSKA plays, but played his junior hockey with the London Knights of the OHL before being drafted 16th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2013. Zadorov may have connections to his hometown team, but has always shown a commitment to North American hockey. The 6’5″, 230-lb. defender logged almost 20 minutes of ice time per game last year for Colorado, and even though they were historically bad, it seems extremely unlikely that they would let their best young defenseman go unsigned. The Avs have plenty of cap room and will budge on term if need be. Even if they couldn’t come to terms, the rebuilding Avs could get plenty in return for dealing Zadorov. Don’t expect him to use the CSKA safety blanket this off-season or any time soon. Grigorenko will be the only 2016-17 Avs member headed to Russia next season.