Catching up with Jiri Hudler, other NHL exports

hudler.jpgGeorge Malik discussed the Detroit Red Wings’ hopes of bringing former winger Jiri Hudler back to the NHL next season. As you may remember, the cash-strapped team was unable to dissuade Hudler from chasing better ice time and bigger money in the KHL last summer.

The Red Wings seem optimistic about the possibility of an “out” clause, but my gut reaction is to “follow the money” – something I sense Detroit will once again lack this summer. Essentially I agree with Malik regarding their chances of luring Hudler back.

My take is this: whether Hudler returns to the Red Wings next season depends on which people Hudler prefers to listen to–Golovkov and Svoboda gave him a helluva line about “breaking free” from the Wings’ third line to establish himself as a top-six player and star, which he did become, all while earning oodles of near tax-free dollars and all the amenities of KHL hockey in an apartment, use of a luxury automobile, a cell phone, utilities, and sometimes even groceries all paid at the expense of the club–and whether the KHL feels like getting into a fight with the NHL about Hudler’s rights again.

If Hudler feels that he’s had a nice time in Russia, can put a chunk of change away for his post-hockey nest egg, and is ready to listen to Ken Holland and Mike Babcock tell him the truth–that his best opportunity to establish himself as an NHL’er is to come back at 26 years of age and make himself invaluable to a team in transition, not wait another year to make a few more million dollars in Russia and find himself without a job–then he’ll come back. If the lure of the KHL’s petro-dollars and whispers in his ears about becoming the player he never could be in Detroit hold sway, and especially if the KHL decides to make a stink about Hudler fulfilling his contract, then he’s going to play in Russia until 2011.

Honestly, I lack even a hint of expertise on KHL/NHL transfer loopholes and other factors of that ilk. My guess is Hudler will make the easiest, most lucrative decision.

The real reason I bring this topic up, though, is to take a look at some familiar names overseas. How are a few former NHLers – ones who may even return next season – doing now? I’m glad you asked, voice in my head!


(All stats compiled from Hockeydb.com. Obviously, G = goals; A  = assists; P = points; parentheses = my innermost thoughts.)

Jiri Hudler: 19 G, 35 A, 54 P in 54 games with Moscow Dynamo

Nikita Filatov: 9 G, 13 A, 22 P in 26 games with CSKA Moscow

Jaromir Jagr: 22 G, 20 G, 42 P in 51 games with Omsk Avangard

Alex Radulov: 24 G, 39 A, 63 P in 54 games with Ufa Salavat Yulayev

And just for kicks:

Robert Esche: 29-7-5 with a 2.07 GAA and a 91.7% save percentage with St. Petersburg SKA

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    Zubrus in, Nieto likely out for Sharks in Stanley Cup Final opener

    ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Dainius Zubrus #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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    PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.

    But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.

    The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.

    Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.

    Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.

    Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.

    Flames’ Jokipakka (hip) might not play for Finns at World Cup

    CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Jyrki Jokipakka #3 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.

    “He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”

    Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.

    Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).

    So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.

    Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.

    ‘Yep,’ Letang will play tonight

    TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.

    Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.

    He was asked if he was playing.

    “Yep.”

    So, no problems?

    “Nope.”

    And that was that.

    No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.

    “Very confident,” said Sullivan.

    Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.

    Former NHLer Bulis calls it a career

    WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23:  Center Jan Bulis #38 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the Washington Capitals on December 23, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Capitals won 4-2.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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    Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.

    Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.

    Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).