So, who else could jump from the KHL to NHL?

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This week, two major outlets — Sportsnet and Yahoo! — both detailed how the KHL is less of a threat to the NHL than it’s ever been.

Why? Well, in the last five months alone we’ve seen a number of prolific KHLers hop the pond: Evgeni Kuznetsov and Jori Lehtera finally joined the Caps and Blues, Leo Komarov re-joined the Leafs (followed by Petri Kontiola, who also inked in Toronto) and Jiri Sekac signed with Montreal.

It was a pretty big influx of talent, highlighted by Lehtera — the KHL’s ninth-leading scorer last year — and the reasoning behind the moves, according to Blues GM Doug Armstrong, was simple: These guys wanted to play against the best.

“I think that players all know that the NHL is the best league; it’s got the best players,” Armstrong explained to Sportsnet. “You can make good money in the KHL but if you want to compete against the best you have to be in the NHL.”

With that in mind, what other players could be on their way over to North America in the future? A few suggestions throw your way:

Alex Burmistrov

Still property of the Winnipeg Jets, Burmistrov — 21st in the KHL last year with 38 points — has been the subject of rumors claiming he’s eying a return to North America… but is being held up by the remaining time on his contract with Ak Bars Kazan.

From the Winnipeg Sun’s report at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft:

There were some rumblings that Alex Burmistrov’s name was in play, but a source said the fact it was unclear if he could get out of his KHL contract with Ak Bars Kazan is a stumbling block to a potential deal.

Still only 22 years old, Burmistrov already has a ton of NHL experience (194 games; he debuted shortly after being the eighth overall pick in 2010) and would probably slide back into an NHL lineup easily, should he choose to return. The Jets retain his North American rights but it’s safe to assume a trade might be in order after his falling out with the club (granted, a percentage of his beef stemmed from a bad relationship with ex-head coach Claude Noel.)

Sakari Salminen

A bit of a late bloomer, Salminen, 26, spent the early parts of his professional career with Assat of the SM-liiga before making the leap with KalPa in 2010-11. He saw his goal totals climb from 12 to 24 to 26 before KHL club Torpedo jumped in with a contract offer — last year, his first in the KHL, Salminen had a very productive campaign by 48 points in 54 games, sixth-most in the league.

Given all the interest in Finnish players like Kontiola, Komarov and Lehtera following the Sochi Olympics (where they won bronze), it wouldn’t be surprising to see Salminen — who replaced Valtteri Filppula on the roster for Sochi — get some interest as well.

Per Elite Prospects, Salminen is under contract with Torpedo through ’14-15.

Ilya Kovalchuk

Rumors of a Kovalchuk return to the NHL were so prevalent this summer that Randy Miller of NJ.com wrote an entire piece rebuking the rumblings:

Here’s what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had to say last summer after Kovalchuk retired from the Devils with 12 years and $77 million on his contract, and then went home to Russia and signed a four-year contract with the Kontinental Hockey League:

1. Unless Kovalchuk sits out a full season of professional hockey anywhere in the world, he cannot return to the NHL without consent from all 30 franchises until 2018-19.

2. If Kovalchuk sits out a full season of pro hockey, he can only return with the Devils’ consent until 2018-19.

3. Beginning in 2018-19, Kovalchuk will be 35, removed from the league’s voluntary retirement list and free to sign with any NHL team as a free agent.

In an email to the New York Post, Daly wrote Kovalchuk returning to the NHL “would require unanimous consent at any point at which the player tries to return to the League without having been out of professional hockey [anywhere in the world] for a full calendar year. Once he sits out for a full calendar year, he can only come back with the Devils’ consent.”

So, Kovalchuk playing for the 2014-15 Devils seems impossible because there is no chance all 30 teams give consent.

This one seems doubtful unless Kovalchuk is willing to come back at the start of the ’18 season. You can put it on the backburner, though!

Dustin Boyd

Of all the North American ex-NHLers currently plying their trade in Russia, Boyd has perhaps the most complete resume (220 games) and youth (27 years old) to make a comeback. He had a solid year for Barys Astana in ’13-14, scoring 38 points in 49 games, and also has a couple of quality NHL seasons on his resume — specifically, an 11-goal, 22-point effort with Calgary in 2008-09.

Boyd is under contract with Barys Astana until the end of 2015, per reports.

The Buzzer: Raanta shutout, Brassard showcase, Blackhawks finally win

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Players of the Night:

Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes: Raanta shutout Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, stopping all 40 shots sent his way for his first goose egg as a member of the Coyotes.

Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators: The Derick Brassard Showcase continued on Saturday night. The Senators forward, who has been the subject of trade speculation leading up to the trade deadline in two weeks, scored in his fourth straight game and added two helpers in a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers.

Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights: Smith extended his point streak to seven games, scoring twice and adding a helper in a 6-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens. Smith has five goals and seven assists during his streak and now has 51 points in 58 games this season.

Anders Nilsson, Vancouver Canucks: Nilsson turned aside 44 of the 45 shots he faced from one of the league’s hottest teams in the Boston Bruins. The Canucks obliged their goaltender, scoring six and chasing Tuukka Rask in a 6-1 win.

Jonathan Toews and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks: Losers of eight straight coming into Saturday, the Blackhawks finally ended the streak, putting up seven goals against the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals. Toews had a goal and two assists in the game. It was Chicago’s first win of the month and their seven goals were half of the number they scored in their previous eight games.

Eddie Lack, New Jersey Devils: Lack wasn’t supposed to be playing against the league’s top team. But there he was on Saturday, stopping 48 of 51 shots against Stamkos, Kucherov and Co. He even out-dueled Andrei Vasilevskiy, who will likely win the Vezina in June. Impressive stuff.

Highlights of the Night:

Ryan Hartman, untouchable:

Nikita Scherbak’d:

Matt Murray did this two nights ago. Deja vu:

Two-pad stack alert:

Factoids of the Night:

The season can’t end fast enough for the Oilers:

The Golden Knights are creeping toward another record:

Evgeni Malkin hits 900:

MISC:

Scores:

Kings 4, Sabres 2

Ducks 3, Wild 2 (SO)

Senators 6, Rangers 3

Coyotes 1, Oilers 0

Golden Knights 3, Canadiens 3

Devils 4, Lightning 3

Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 3

Red Wings 3, Predators 1

Blackhawks 7, Capitals 1

Canucks 6, Bruins 1

Panthers 6, Flames 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blackhawks fans tossed after racist taunts toward Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly

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Four Chicago Blackhawks fans were kicked out of Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals at United Center after racially-charged taunts were made toward Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly, serving a five-minute major for fighting in the third period, got upset with a fan next to him who, according to the Washington Post, was chanting, “Basketball, basketball basketball,” toward Smith-Pelly, who is black. 

“There’s absolutely no place in a game of hockey, or a country, for racism,” Trotz said after the game. “I think it’s disgusting. There’s no place for it. The athletes in this country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance.”

Trotz said he hadn’t spoken with DSP about the incident, but said he was upset and his teammates had been talking with him.

DSP did not speak with the media following the game, which the Capitals lost 7-1.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

The Blackhawks issued a statement following the game

““We were made aware of an incident at tonight’s game involving a small group of attendees who made harmful comments directed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly,” a Hawks spokesperson said. “The fans were immediately removed and we apologize to Smith-Pelly and the Washington Capitals organization. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games and these actions will never be tolerated.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Should Miles Wood be suspended after boarding Vladislav Namestnikov? (video)

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He won’t have much of a defense, it would seem.

New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood took off his responsible thinking cap on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the second period, Woods came barrelling in on the Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The latter had already ushered the puck up the ice, and with his back turned to Woods, the Devils sophomore appeared to leave his feet, driving his shoulder into the nameplate of Namestnikov’s jersey.

If that wasn’t enough, Andrej Sustr came in to defend his teammate and paid the price at the hands of Wood, who broke his visor with a punch, leaving Sustr bloodied.

Wood was given a boarding minor on the play and an additional two minutes for roughing after he left Sustr in a mess. It wouldn’t be at all shocking if Wood is summoned by the NHL’s player safety department.

Both Namestnikov and Sustr had to leave the game, but both returned in the third period.

The Devils won the game 4-3. Guess who scored the game-winner…


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Cam Talbot, furious with overturned goal, launches expletive-laden tirade

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang

Cam Talbot wasn’t too happy after losing to the bottom feeders of the NHL’s Western Conference on Saturday afternoon.

The Oilers, who have Connor McDavid, couldn’t manage to score a goal against a team that’s given up the third most to opposing teams this season.

And the goal they appeared to score to tie the game 1-1 in the third period was eventually overturned because of goaltender interference.

Video review confirmed that Patrick Maroon impeded Antti Raanta’s ability to move his blocker side arm freely, a call that Talbot took exception to following the game.

“It’s extremely frustrating, to have what seems like every single one of these calls go against us in the past two years is just unbelievable,” Talbot lamented to the media. “I’ve never seen anything like it. We challenge a goal, it stands. They challenge a goal on us for some reason it’s always waved off.

“I just don’t understand it, it’s the exact same play that we had last week against L.A. where the guy clips my blocker. We challenge and it’s still a goal. Last year in the playoffs against  Corey Perry, same play, takes my blocker with him, puck goes blocker side and it’s still a goal on us. There’s just no consistency and I’m f***ing sick of it.”

Answering another question, Talbot continued to drop f-bombs speaking to Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Journal.

“The fact that every single goal is disallowed against us and every single call or every single time we challenge it’s still upheld. I don’t f***ing get it. They’re the same f***ing plays every time and for some reason, the call goes against us these past two years. We haven’t won one challenge in the past two years. It’s ridiculous. I just don’t get it.” 

This looks one part frustration and another part sour grapes. There have been some blown calls this season, for sure, including against the Oilers.

Here.

Here.

And here.

But this one the Situation Room got right.

Meanwhile, Talbot’s Oilers were shutout for the seventh time this season. They continue to wildly underachieve, despite having names like McDavid and Draisaitl. And they have to watch former teammates like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle light it up with their new teams.

Sure, Talbot and Co. can blame it a host of external issues. But he and the Oilers have to start looking within. They didn’t become bottom feeders because a goal got overturned.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck