Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

Smith-Pelly joins KHL’s Kunlun Red Star on one-year deal

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After failing to catch on with the Flames in training camp, Devante Smith-Pelly has signed on with Kunlun Red Star of the KHL on a one-year deal.

The 27-year-old forward split time between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate last season. After being waived and sent down in February, he joined the Hershey Bears and scored six times and registered 14 points in 20 games. In 54 games with the Capitals, Smith-Pelly recorded eight points and was pointless in three playoff games. 

It wasn’t the easiest of seasons for Smith-Pelly in 2018-19 coming off a Stanley Cup Final where he scored three times against the Golden Knights. He couldn’t find a regular spot in Todd Reirden’s lineup and the Capitals declined to re-sign him in the summer. The Flames brought him into training camp last month on a tryout deal but released him after he went pointless in four games.

Kunlun Red Star is based in Beijing, China and coached by former NHL player and head coach Curt Fraser. 

Smith-Pelly isn’t the only player on the roster with NHL ties. You might recall names like Gilbert Brule, Adam Cracknell, Wojtek Wolski, Griffin Reinhart, Brandon Yip, and Andrej Sustr. There are also two sons of former stars in the league with David Bondra Jake Chelios featuring.

In other KHL news, four days after signing a tryout deal, former Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov has signed a one-year deal with Lokomotiv.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Oilers shift continues: MacTavish takes coaching job in KHL

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The Edmonton Oilers’ shift in management is continuing. Ken Holland was recently hired to serve as the Oilers’ new GM and now Craig MacTavish is leaving his post as Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations.

HC Lokomotiv of the KHL announced that MacTavish has signed a two-year contract to coach their team. MacTavish served as the bench boss of the Oilers for eight seasons, posting a 301-252-47-56 record and leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.

MacTavish later served as their general manager from 2013-15 before being replaced by Peter Chiarelli, which led to MacTavish shifting to the Senior Vice President role he’s held until now. Although his departure comes during the Oilers’ remodeling following two disappointing seasons, this change might have ultimately been primarily about what MacTavish wanted.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what other news comes out of the Oilers in the coming months. We already know that Holland plans to hire a new head coach rather than keep Ken Hitchcock in that role and there could very well be more changes on the front office side as well.

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

NHLers hold charity games in Slovakia honoring Pavol Demitra

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The plane crash that killed all the members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL in 2011 was one of the saddest stories in sports history. The lives lost that day ranged from veteran players who never left Russia to former NHL players who returned to Europe to keep their career going.

One of those players was Pavol Demitra and a host of former NHL players are touring his home country of Slovakia this summer hosting three charity hockey games to raise money for youth hockey in the country as NHL.com shared.

A team of Slovak stars will face a team of St. Louis Blues stars in the games. Former NHL players Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny, Peter Bondra, Miroslav Satan, and John Wensink joined up with Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for the effort all to help remember their friend and countryman.

“I am glad that we could pay tribute to [Pavol] this way,” Chara said. “The other good thing was the game was a sellout. It shows people here love hockey. Playing with all these stars from both teams was a great honor for me.”

The two sides have played one game already in Poprad. Game 2 will be on Friday in Trencin followed by Game 3 in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, on Saturday.

 

Florida’s Kulikov headed to KHL during lockout

The KHL is claiming a pair of up and coming young blue liners thanks to the lockout.

While Victor Hedman signed on with Barys Astana earlier in the day, the Panthers will lose one of their own.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, currently an unsigned RFA, will play for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl during the work stoppage.

The 2009 first-round pick was unable to get a deal done with Florida ahead of the lockout and will likely take a bit of a hit when he signs after the lockout ends.

Anisimov signs with KHL’s Lokomotiv

Another day, another player jumping to the KHL.

This time it’s Columbus forward Artem Anisimov, returning home to play for the club team of his youth, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

The news was made official early Thursday morning by Lokomotiv’s official Twitter account, announcing that Animisov — who played for the club at the junior and senior levels before joining the New York Rangers — would return to bolster a squad devastated by the 2011 air disaster.

Anisimov will join a number of ex-NHLers in Yaroslavl. Viktor Kozlov, Mark Flood, Nicklas Hagman, Staffan Kronwall, Curtis Sanford, Sami Lepisto and Vitaly Vishnevsky are already with the team and it’s possible other current NHLers could follow suit, given the large number that have already signed on to play in the KHL.

The 24-year-old Russian is in the final year of a two-year, $3.75 million extension signed with the Rangers in 2011. Now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets — by way of the Rick Nash trade — Anisimov finds himself in a precarious situation.

He’s entering a contract year, with a new team, but has yet to debut for the Jackets because of the lockout and is now taking the added risk of playing overseas.