When the Florida Panthers acquired highly touted Russian prospect and restricted free agent Sergei Shirokov from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for restricted free agent of their own Mike Duco, it raised eyebrows for a few reasons around the league. Firstly, Shirokov is viewed as a top prospect and someone the Canucks were looking to eventually bring into the fold as a scoring forward to add to Vancouver’s arsenal of talent.
Secondly, the move was curious was because the Canucks had just gotten a bit burned before last season when they dealt Michael Grabner to Florida for Keith Ballard. Grabner was waived by the Panthers in training camp and ended up with the New York Islanders where he scored 34 goals for them finishing up as a Calder Trophy finalist.
Finally, Shirokov is due to head to the KHL to play for CSKA next season. Dealing one RFA for another RFA that likely wouldn’t be playing whether he was signed or not was a risk, but Dale Tallon was willing to do it anyhow. As it turns out, Shirokov won’t be playing in Sunrise, Florida any time soon as he’s going to take his talents to Red Square and honor the contract he signed with CSKA in Moscow.
“I’ll honor my three-year contract with CSKA, like I honored the 2-yr deal with Vancouver”, says Shirokov. “I don’t care about any NHL deals.”
It’s a disappointment for the Panthers for sure in that they won’t get to see if Shirokov can turn immediately into the next Grabner, but they’ll retain his rights while he’s in Russia and likely revisit the situation when his deal in Moscow is up. While the relationship between the NHL and the KHL is still a bit strained as things go, even in spite of the continued understanding, making sure not to step on each other’s toes when deals are signed is a good way to at least keep this hockey cold war on peaceable terms.
The Panthers could end up being the benefactors through all this as Shirokov could turn into a well-rounded and ideal player when his deal with CSKA is through and could head back to North America for the Panthers. Shirokov will be 28 years-old and into the prime of his playing days when he’s set to come back from Russia. Bringing in a potential high scoring veteran by then could be worth the wait.