KHL departures, AHL signings, NHL trade market

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Amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the exodus in the KHL continues. While many North American players had already left their respective Russian-based clubs and two non-Russian teams left the league altogether, perhaps the biggest blow to date came on Friday as European players of the KHL left their teams in droves. The move comes as the Gagarin Cup qualifiers are underway.

The Eastern Conference first round game between Salavat Yulaev Ufa and Sibir Novosibirsk will look decidedly different going forward. Ufa, the No. 3 seed in the conference, announced that all of their imported players left the team. This includes names familiar to NHL fans like Markus Granlund, Teemu Hartikainen, and Philip Larsen. Departure of Granlund and his companions Sakari Manninen led the club in scoring this season. Novosibirsk revealed that a pair of former NHL players had also left their ranks as goaltenders Harri Sateri and defender Jyrki Jokipakka. Best striker Nick Shore had previously left the team and is now joined by the starting keeper and arguably their best defender. The eternal favorite of CSKA Moscow is no exception to this movement; the team announced that it had lost recent NHL contributors Joakim Nordstrom and Lucas Wallmark, who both served in the first six roles. Finally, regular season champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk may have lost their title hopes with the departure of the starting goaltender Juho Olkinuora. The former AHL and University of Denver standout was among the KHL’s top goaltenders this season. This is not the scale of the departures of foreign players, nor will it be the last.

  • There’s been a flurry of activity in the AHL lately, headlining an overtime for the veteran forward Tanner Fritz. The Hartford Wolf Pack has announced that its plus/minus leader has signed a new contract for the 2022-23 season. Fritz, 30, has played his professional career almost exclusively in New York and Connecticut, spending five years with the New York Islanders and their Bridgeport affiliate before moving to Hartford this season. While enjoying a new contract, Fritz is likely considering a future contract with the New York Rangers, if possible. In Toronto, the Marlies raised the NHL veteran Joseph Blandissi from a PTO to a contract for the rest of the season. Blandisi, 27, has been a near points-per-game player for the Marlies this season and is well deserving of a proper contract. In Charlotte, the Checkers bring fresh blood from the junior ranks. Defender Robert Callisti from Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Striker Xavier Cormier from the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL have each signed two-year contracts with the club, starting next season. The two have combined for 72 points in 81 games this season and the Checkers are hoping the production translates to the pros.
  • If it seems like all the action right now is happening outside of the NHL, while the trading market remains all bark and bite-free, it’s true. Despite the usual speculation, there have been almost no early moves this season with the deadline just over two weeks away. Apart from Tyler Toffoli and Nick Ritchie/Ilya Lyubushkin the only trades made in recent times have included future considerations, seventh-round picks and third-string goaltenders. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the heist in the market comes from buyers rather than sellers. He thinks concerns about the salary cap, especially from teams dealing with long-term injuries, are slowing down deals. However, there is hope that things will pick up soon, as LeBrun notes that sellers are getting nervous. Contenders with cap space, such as the Predators, Rangers, Wild and Bruins, could be the beneficiaries if other cap-strapped teams continue to drag their feet.

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