After playing in a career-high 33 games last season, Mark Flood is taking his game to Russia and the KHL.
Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports Flood has signed a deal with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to help that team restart its program. Flood finished last season with three goals and four assists in limited duty with the Jets. He’s a puck-moving defenseman with a little bit of offensive game but enjoyed greater success in the AHL in his journeyman career.
Flood won’t be the only former NHL’er in Yaroslavl as he’ll join Niklas Hagman, Sami Lepisto, and Curtis Sanford there next season. Seeing that team rebound after the tragic plane crash that claimed the entire team will be a story to take note of in just months as the KHL season begins.
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.”
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.
According to Russian news outlet Sports.ru, SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL is set to begin contract talks with Washington Capitals forward Alex Semin.
The former 40-goal scorer is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and has indicated his time in Washington is over. While reports have suggested Semin’s desire is to remain in the NHL, a recent interview with Sport-Express suggested playing in the KHL is also a viable option:
Question: “Is there any clarity on where your career will resume in the next season?”
Semin: “I can’t say anything concrete at this time. I’m waiting for July 1st, until the negotiations in the NHL open, for now I am unemployed.”
Question: “Are your priorities in Russia or North America?”
Semin: “I can’t answer. I don’t know.”
SKA general manager Alexei Kasatonov — who played nearly 400 games in the NHL with New Jersey, Anaheim, St. Louis and Boston — had previously told Sports-Express that his club plans to pursue Semin when the free agency window opens.
It’ll be interesting to see how negotiations play out. Recent days have seen a flurry of NHLers depart for the KHL — Erik Christensen, Sami Lepisto, Curtis Sanford — though none with the star power and talent level of Semin, who has averaged 31 goals per season since the lockout.
Of note, SKA is home to a number of ex-NHLers including Maxim Afinogenov, Vitaly Vishnevski, Dmitri Kalinin, Denis Grebeshkov and Petr Prucha.
Another day, another NHLer heading to Russia.
This time it’s Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Sami Lepisto, who has agreed to join Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL.
His signing coincided with news that Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford had also agreed to join Lokomotiv, the team that suffered the enormous tragedy of last September’s plane crash.
Lepisto, 27, broke into the NHL with Washington before spending time with Phoenix, Columbus and Chicago.
He appeared in 26 games for the Blackhawks last season and in three of six playoff games, earning himself a sweet bruise in the process.