For the most part, Russian-born (and other European) stars tend to bolt for more lucrative contracts with the KHL. (Alex Radulov is the most convenient example.) Yet there is a smaller trend forming in the background: depth players – some even from North America – are beginning to view the KHL as viable option as well.
Ken Wiebe reports that (former) Winnipeg Jet Tim Stapleton has agreed in principle to a deal with the KHL’s Dinamo-Minsk. Stapleton had easily the best season of his young career in 2011-12, setting career-highs for goals (11), assists (16), points (27) and games played (63).
As mentioned earlier this off-season, Stapleton joins a lower-level exodus that also includes Mats Zuccarello, Erik Christensen, Sami Lepisto and Curtis Sanford. Even former Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice decided to give the upstart professional league a shot.
It’s not exactly the sort of raid that will leave NHL teams trembling, but it’s interesting to see marginal players get more bargaining power than they’ve likely ever enjoyed.
Since he’s on his way out of the league for at least a little while, I thought I’d leave you with this random AP photo where it looks like Jeff Skinner is giving him a “DDT.”
A smattering of minor transactions across the NHL…
— Renaud Lavoie of RDS reports the Nashville Predators have re-upped with UFA forward Brandon Yip.
Acquired off waivers from Colorado midway through last season, Yip endeared himself to head coach Barry Trotz and went on to appear in 25 games for the Preds (3G-4A-7PTS) and 10 playoff contests (1G-1A-2PTS).
Yip reportedly signed a one-way, one-year deal worth $750,000.
— The Minnesota Wild have lost yet another player to Europe: Cody Almond has signed with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss League. The move comes just weeks after Erik Christensen bolted Minnesota to join HC Lev of the KHL.
Almond, 22, was taken 140th overall by the Wild at the 2007 draft but had a difficult time cracking the the NHL. He played just 25 games with the Wild over the course of three seasons, spending most of his time with Houston of the AHL.
— Speaking of HC Lev (the only KHL team based in Prague), it appears Florida’s Michal Repik has agreed to terms with the club. The 23-year-old was taken 40th overall by Florida at the ’07 draft but, like Almond, had a difficult time sticking in the bigs.
His best year was in 2010-11 when he appeared in 31 games with the Panthers, scoring 2G-6A-8PTS.
The recent exodus of NHLers to Russia continued on Friday, but with a twist — this time, it’s a coach.
According to various reports, former Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs bench boss Paul Maurice has agreed to coach Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL. He’ll be joined by former ‘Canes goalie coach Tom Barasso, who was recently replaced in Carolina by Greg Stefan.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reports there may have been a European bidding war for Maurice’s services. ZSC Zurich — the team Bob Hartley left to take the head coaching job in Calgary — had expressed interest, but it appears Metallurg put together a superior offer (rumored to be a one-year, $2 million deal.)
Maurice — who took the ‘Canes to an Eastern Conference and Cup finals — is the second big coup for Metallurg in recent days. The team also inked former Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, the fourth NHLers to move to Russia this June. The others are Erik Christensen, Sami Lepisto and Curtis Sanford, with offers apparently being drawn up for Alex Semin and Alex Radulov.