If you want to be technical about it, Alexei Yashin will receive an NHL salary whether he plays another second of hockey in 2011-12. In fact, he’ll receive a bit more than $2.2 million per year for the next four years thanks to the New York Islanders’ decision to buy out his massive contract way back in June 2007.
Of course, there’s a big difference between getting paid to play hockey at (or near) its highest level and being paid simply to stay away from the rink. Yashin’s future is now in serious – but perhaps intriguing? – doubt after it was revealed that SKA St. Petersburg opted against giving him another contract.
Yashin’s obvious red flags
Naturally, it’s not a great sign when the KHL sours on a player, especially a prominent Russian ex-star such as Yashin. That being said, it’s not as if we haven’t been through this drill before. Evgeni Nabokov’s KHL run was a spectacular failure, but he still received NHL interest when he expressed the desire to return.
Now, a direct comparison isn’t totally valid because of Yashin’s star-crossed reputation. The Ottawa Senators probably rank at the top of the list of teams who are probably uninterested in bringing him in after he set out the 1999-2000 season thanks to a contract tiff. There were plenty of questions about his character and locker room influence when he played his last NHL season at 33 years old, let alone at 37.
The case for giving Yashin a chance
That being said, a team desperate for offense might want to at least consider taking a low-risk, medium-reward gamble on Yashin. For all the criticisms he (justifiably) receives, Yashin was still fairly productive – at least on the offensive end. He scored 50 goals in 58 games in 2006-07, helping the Islanders make their last postseason run. His final season with SKA was underwhelming (33 points in 52 games), but he was a steady scorer in most other situations. Yashin scored 187 points in 220 regular season games in Russia and 40 points in 43 playoff games.
It’s reasonable to expect that Yashin’s bad reputation (and perhaps an unreasonable asking price) will derail almost any chance he has at an NHL comeback. That being said, a smart GM should at least take a look at his team and wonder if a cheap Yashin could actually fit in. If the Chicago Blackhawks can talk themselves into thinking that Daniel Carcillo might improve their locker room chemistry, then a team can rationalize just about anything these days.
Yashin’s NHL return is highly unlikely, but let us ask: would any team actually be wise in giving him a shot? Let us know how you feel in the comments.
(H/T to On the Forecheck.)