After nine years in the NHL, Anton Babchuk is headed abroad.
The veteran defenseman has reportedly signed with Salavat Yulaev of the KHL, according to Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov.
Babchuk, 29, has spent the last three seasons in Calgary, seeing his playing time and role diminish over the course of his stay.
He got off to a solid start — 8G-19A-27PTS in 65 games in his first season — but quickly fell out of favor with coaching and management and appeared in just seven contests last season, averaging under 12 minutes per.
With the move, Babchuk becomes the second Flame to leave for the KHL in recent weeks.
In mid-may, center Roman Cervenka returned to Russia — signing with SKA St. Petersburg — after just one year in Calgary.
Calgary Flames defenseman Anton Babchuk told Sports.ru’s Igor Eronko that he expects to play in the KHL during the 2013-14 season.
The Flames (and NHL as a whole) probably won’t be bothered too much by this plan because the hard-shooting defenseman has only managed to play five games this season. The 28-year-old spent time with Donbass in the KHL during the lockout.
Flames GM Jay Feaster circulated word that Babchuk was available via a trade, but he was unable to find any takers.
Babchuk’s best NHL seasons came when he scored 35 points in 72 games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008-09 and when he collected 27 points in 65 contests with the Flames in 2010-11.
The thinned-out Flames blueline will be even thinner on Friday night.
That’s because Dennis Wideman, the team’s leading defenseman scorer, will be out of the lineup with a broken finger and Chris Butler, who averages close to 17 minutes a night, is suffering from the flu.
In a related move, the Flames recalled Mark Cundari from AHL Abbotsford. Cundari, 22, was one of the pieces acquired from St. Louis in exchange for Jay Bouwmeester on Apr. 1.
If Butler can’t go tonight — though it’s expected he’ll try — Calgary projects to ice a defensive unit comprised of Cundari, Mark Giordano, Cory Sarich, TJ Brodie, Brett Carson and Anton Babchuk.
Despite the makeshift roster, Calgary has actually played well of late, winning four of its last six and putting a serious dent in Detroit’s playoff chances with a 3-2 win on Wednesday.
That said, the Flames will likely face a stiff challenge tonight against a Ducks team that’s racked up nine goals in two games against them this season.
Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster sent an e-mail to the NHL’s other 29 general managers that fringe defensemen Cory Sarich and Anton Babchuk are available, according to Sportsnet’s John Shannon.
Considering the fact that most trade rumors have been driven by bigger names like Brenden Morrow, Dan Boyle and Jarome Iginla lately, that little bit provided some comic relief on Sunday.
The most amazing part, for some, was that Shannon reminded the hockey world that both Sarich and Babchuk have no-trade clauses.
Babchuk, 28, has appeared in two regular season games in 2013, collecting an assist. If you want to make an argument for his value, he was known for having a thunderous slap shot.
Sarich, 34, managed to get in 11 contests, but his -7 rating and average of about 13 minutes per game won’t blow people away. He does have a surprising amount of experience (898 regular season games played) and a Stanley Cup on his resume, however.
Still, for most, it was a report that was good for laughs. We’ll see if the marginal blueliners get packaged in a deal of some kind (with Iginla, perhaps?) or moved on their own or stay put.
The Calgary Flames have placed goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff (lower body) and center Mikael Backlund (MCL sprain) on injured reserve.
Kiprusoff, 36, was injured earlier this week in a win over the Detroit Red Wings — he tweaked what’s believed to be his knee after getting tangled with Johan Franzen.
The veteran netminder was held out of Thursday’s game against Columbus and won’t play on Saturday when the Flames travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks.
Reports suggest Kiprusoff could be back next week — the Flames have a three-game homestand starting Monday against Minnesota.
The news on Backlund isn’t as bright. He’s out 4-6 weeks with the ligament sprain, a tough blow considering he’s been a productive member of the Flames’ forward group.
In eight games, Backlund has scored 3G-1A-4PTS while averaging just over 13 minutes a night. He’s also chipped in with two points on the power play.
In related moves, the Flames recalled center Ben Street from AHL Abbotsford and activated defenseman Anton Babchuk from IR.
Street has been a solid scorer with the Heat this season — 12G-19A-31PTS in 44 games — and could make his NHL debut this weekend in Vancouver.