Two familiar names are KHL-bound; Capitals ink interesting KHL forward

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The KHL’s 2018-19 season began this weekend (waves to Nail Yakupov), so it probably shouldn’t be too shocking to see some transactions that will ring a few bells. Let’s consider two now-former-NHL-players heading overseas, and the Capitals’ investment in bringing a KHL scorer to North America.

Alexei Emelin (pictured: bottom right)

The 32-year-old defenseman isn’t just signing in the KHL; it sounds like he’ll be there for more than just a one year “I can still play, take me back NHL!”-type deal. Instead, Avangard inked Emelin for three years.

Emelin spent the first six years of his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens, appearing in 380 regular-season games and 29 playoff contests for the Habs. He was then scooped up by the Vegas Golden Knights during the expansion draft, only to be traded to the Nashville Predators. He appeared in 76 regular-season games with Nashville, and then also suited up for 10 playoff contests, averaging a miniscule 11:19 during the postseason run. He clearly struggled to crack a stout Predators defensive lineup after being fairly prominent during his last two seasons with Montreal.

The hard-hitting defenseman had his critics, and it’s easy to see why analytics-minded people would critique him.

While the modern game seems to be leaving Emelin behind, it’s almost a little surprising some “old-school” type didn’t scoop him up. Maybe the KHL deal, considering the term, was just far more lucrative?

Kris Versteeg (pictured: top)

Avangard also signed Kris Versteeg recently, in this case to a one-year contract (so maybe this one is a “please take me back, NHL!” deal).

That KHL team ultimately boasts quite a few familiar names. Along with Versteeg and Emelin, Avangard also currently employs Max Talbot and David Desharnais. A lot of the new guys from around the KHL are apparently performing well to start.

Last season wasn’t particularly impressive stuff from Versteeg (eight points in 24 games, mediocre possession stats), as the 32-year-old struggled in his second season with the Calgary Flames. You wonder if he might be able to find a gig somewhere around the NHL in 2019-20, though, as he isn’t that far removed from fairly solid supporting cast work.

Still, Versteeg enjoyed a solid run in the NHL if this is it for him at this level, and he can look back at memories of winning two Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sergei Shumakov (pictured: bottom left)

While those two veterans left the NHL for the KHL, the reverse happened as the Washington Capitals signed Shumakov, 25, to a one-year, two-way deal.

The undrafted forward tied for CSKA Moscow’s team lead in 2017-18 by scoring 40 points in 47 games, including 17 goals (those 40 points ranked him 18th in the KHL). He’s shown nifty hands at times, like here:

And here:

Russian Machine Never Breaks has all your Shumakov tattoo-related needs covered here.

Is he someone who can make a dent in the lineup, or possibly be even more than that? Considering that he signed a two-way deal, it’s possible that Shumakov could go either way. It sure seems like a low-risk addition for Washington, overall, though.

Apologies if that second Shumakov highlight got “The Offspring” in your head. That song is now in mine, too, if that’s any consolation.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.