Goaltender Nilsson done in Long Island, heading to KHL

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

With the Islanders signing of Jaroslav Halak, and New York landing its starting goaltender, Anders Nilsson is taking his game across the pond, signing what appears to be a one-year deal with the KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan. The deal was first reported by Igor Eronko of SportsBox.ru.

In 29 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2013-14, Nilsson posted a 2.81 GAA and .901 SV%, a sizeable regression from his rookie North American season.

Drafted in the third round of the 2009 entry draft, the 6’5″ goaltender made his debut in North American play in 2011-12, posting a 2.42 GAA and incredible .921 SV%. Nilsson regressed the following season, but got the call in 2013-14 to spot start for the Islanders.

In 18 games in the NHL this season, the 24-year-old goaltender looked shaky. With a 3.11 GAA and .896 SV% in his short stint in the NHL, it was assumed Nilsson’s play would leave him out of consideration for the starting role with the Isles.

The terms of the deal have not been announced.

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As Stars battle Marlies in Western Final, Hedden rumour swirls

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

Mike Hedden is in the midst of his best professional season to date, but a rumour out of the KHL has Hedden connected to Medvescak Zangreb.

Hedden, 29, potted 23 goals this season and racked up 55 points in 74 games. Those 74 games were a career-high for the undrafted Hedden, who played his NCAA career with Division-III Neumann University. In 10 games in the Calder Cup playoffs, Hedden’s tallied five goals and four assists.

The report, which appeared on KHL.hr, says that Hedden moving to Zangreb is “almost a sure thing”.

For three consecutive seasons, the Dunville, Ont. native has signed one-year deals with Texas, but without an NHL deal, he could be on his way to Russia.

While nothing has been firmed up as of yet, the certainty with which Hedden’s deal in the KHL is being reported raises a few eyebrows.

Olver leaving Lake Erie for Sochi

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

Following a career year in the American Hockey League, it appears that Lake Erie Monsters forward Mark Olver is heading to the KHL Sochi Leopards.

Darryl Wolski, an agent with 2112 Hockey Agency, tweeted this afternoon that Olver has signed a deal with the KHL’s expansion franchise for 2014-15.

Olver, 26, is coming off of the best AHL campaign of his career, tallying 15 goals and 49 points in 65 games in 2013-14. A point-per-game player in the NCAA with Northern Michigan, Olver came to the Avalanche organization in 2010-11. Drafted in the fifth round, 140th overall, in 2005, Olver has 74 games of NHL experience, but couldn’t stick with the club this season.

With a youth movement taking place in Colorado, and a glut of young forwards coming through the ranks, it became apparent this season that Olver would likely need to move on to get to the NHL. A restricted free agent this summer, it appears that, instead of trying to get another NHL deal, Olver will head to the KHL.

After disappointing season, Emmerton heads to KHL

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

Not long into 2013-14, when the Detroit Red Wings were facing injury trouble, it became clear that the Wings’ plans for Cory Emmerton weren’t what the 2006 second rounder had hoped.

Now, just under a month after the Red Wings season came to a close, it appears Emmerton is heading to one of the KHL’s expansion franchises.

In a release this afternoon, the Sochi Leopards announced they have signed the 25-year-old forward to a one-year deal.

In 2011-12, half a decade after his draft year, Emmerton finally cracked the difficult Red Wings lineup, appearing in 71 games and registering six goals and 10 points. The following season, the lockout shortened 2012-13, Emmerton suited up for each Wings game, but didn’t show much progression. In ’12-’13, the St. Thomas, Ont. native registered five goals and three assists.

It could have been expected that Emmerton would have stayed with the Wings this season, but when injury trouble struck the team, Emmerton was left off the big club in favour of younger prospects like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco. By season’s end, Emmerton had suited up for only 18 NHL games, playing another 53 in the AHL.

In his 139 total NHL games, Emmerton has tallied 21 points (12-9), but was consistent in the AHL, racking up 50 goals and 107 assists in 270 AHL contests.

A restricted free agent this summer, Emmerton’s signing in the KHL signals that he was either frustrated with where he was being slotted in the lineup, or was told by the team that he would not be tendered an offer.

On an expansion KHL roster, Emmerton will likely get the minutes that were so hard to come by in Detroit.

If rough translations are to be believed, Sochi fans are already excited for the now-former-Red Wing to suit up:

Emmerton Love

 

Meech, Stepanov sign KHL deals

Both Derek Meech and Stefan Stepanov are heading to the KHL.

Meech, 29, has spent the last two seasons under contract with his hometown Winnipeg Jets, but after the two parted ways this off-season, Meech was without a deal for next season. It was announced yesterday that Meech, who can play both defence and on the wing, has signed a one-year deal with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.

Over the past several seasons, Meech has been unable to find steady work in the NHL and split time between the NHL and AHL on a number of occasions. In his AHL career, Meech has tallied 30 goals and 97 assists over 356 games, adding another 12 points (4-8) in 38 playoff games.

Meech also suited up for 144 big league contests, and tallied four goals and 13 assists.

Stepanov, who spent the majority of last season in Russia, was signed to an AHL deal late last season after having his KHL contract with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg terminated. However, after signing his AHL contract, Stepanov only suited up for one game, was held pointless, and was on-ice for a goal against.

The 20-year-old Russian defenceman had spent seven games playing with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, but his contract was terminated after off-ice infractions.

Stepanov’s contract is a two-year, two-way deal with Atlant Mytishchi. 

Sanguinetti heads to the KHL

According to Atlant Mytishchi’s website, the KHL team has inked former Carolina Hurricane to a two-year deal.

Sanguinetti, a veteran of 277 AHL games, spent most of the season in the NHL at the end of the lockout. In his 37 games with the Hurricanes in 2012-13, Sanguinetti had two goals and four assists. In 36 games in the AHL, before the NHL season had begun, the defenceman had six goals and 15 assists with Carolina’s top affiliate in Charlotte.

Prior to landing in Charlotte, Sanguinetti played his minor league career with the Hartford Wolf Pack. A first round pick of the New York Rangers in 2006, Sanguinetti is a year removed from a 50 point season in 2011-12. That season, while with the Checkers, the 25-year-old had ten goals and 40 assists in 60 games.

A former CHL Top Prospect and OHL second team all-star, Sanguinetti once lead the entire OHL in goals by a defeneman with 29 in 2007-08.

KHL club adds another from AHL with Cheechoo

2005-06 Maurice Richard Trophy winner and  AHL journeyman Jonathan Cheechoo has signed on to join Medvescak Zagreb in a move that makes the team continue to look more and more like the Island of ex-AHLers.

Cheechoo, who will join goaltender Barry Brust, forward Boyd Kane, and former Hershey coach Mark French, spent last season with the Oklahoma City Barons. In 35 games with the Barons, the one-time NHL goal scoring champion had 13 goals and 19 assists. Since his massive season in the bigs, Cheechoo has failed to recapture that form, but has made a fine career in the AHL as a top line player and key contributor. He spent his past three seasons in the AHL, with seasons in Worcester, Peoria, and, most recently, OKC.

In 342 career AHL contests, Cheechoo has tallied 123 goals and 157 assists. A second round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 1998, Cheechoo has not suited up for an NHL contest since 2009-10, when he played 61 games with the Ottawa Senators.

UPDATED: Bears land Jamie Johnson

The madness of free agency opening isn’t restricted to the NHL, and the Hershey Bears are the first team to make a splash.

The Bears signed 31-year-old centerman Jamie Johnson to a one-year deal only half an hour after the free agency period opened.

Johnson, who spent last season with the Kontinental Hockey League’s Dinamo Riga, will almost immediately slot into a top-six role for the Bears next season, and will fill a void left by the departure of Boyd Kane. In Riga last season, Johnson has 8 goals and 14 assists in 52 games.

Not a stranger to the AHL, Johnson played with the Iowa Stars, Albany River Rats, Rochester Americans, and will now suit up in Hershey.

In 423 career games, Johnson has tallied 96 goals and 186 assists for 282 points.

UPDATE: Scott Stuccio, the Bears play by play voice, spoke with Johnson:

 

UPDATED: Bears’ Kane heads for KHL

Boyd Kane, the former Hershey Bears captain, has left the team in pursuit of a new opportunity with Madvescak Zagreb.

Kane, a veteran of nearly 950 AHL games, has spent the past four seasons in Hershey where he put up a stellar 127 points (58-69). The Bears, without his veteran presence, will be left with a sizeable hole to fill. Kane, 35, played a strong two-way game for the Bears.

Kane’s most recent four-year stint with the Bears was his second tenure with the team. In 2005-06, Kane was a member of the Bears Calder Cup winning team. Kane, again as a member of the Bears, would win another Calder Cup in 2009-10.

Tim Leone, who has covered the Bears for a number of years, wrote the following on Twitter:

Kane will join former Bears head coach Mark French in Zagreb, and joins former AHLers Barry Brust, Luke Walker, and Bill Thomas on the 2013-14 squad.

UPDATE: Kane spoke to Dave Soittle of PennLive.com. It’s worth the time to read it over. From the story:

“We loved our time in Hershey and had a lot of good years there,” Kane said Wednesday from his native Saskatchewan, where he’s vacationing with his wife and two young daughters. “As a family, we loved it, but there’s always a time to move on and this was my time. It’s a great opportunity and I had to jump on it.

“When you win championships, you get close with people. You develop a bond, and not just with teammates and staff, but with those in the community and people who help out. You can’t help but get close, and it’s those friendships I’ll miss the most.”

 

Goaltenders Brust, Sabourin head overseas

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Barry Brust will be back in a European jersey in 2013-14.

Two veteran AHL netminders are heading to Europe, freeing up spots in their former organizations.

Barry Brust has reportedly signed a deal with the KHL’s Medvescak Zagreb after spending the last season in Abbotsford. Brust playing in 35 games last season, with a 2.50 GAA and .911 SV%. A Calder Cup champion in 2010-11 with the Binghamton Senators, Brust will be on his second stint in Europe after spending a year in Germany with DEL’s Straubing Tigers.

At 29, Brust hasn’t spent a ton of time in the NHL. His only taste of the big leagues was an 11 game stint in 2006-07 with the Los Angeles Kings. In his 11 games in the NHL, he posted a dismal 3.70 GAA and .878 SV%.

In addition to Brust, journeyman goaltender Dany Sabourin is also heading across the pond.

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Dany Sabourin will get a shot at a full-time starting role in Austria next season.

Sabourin, 32, has been a serviceable backup at every level. Over the last 11 years, the 6’4″ netminder has played in Johnstown (ECHL), Saint John, Calgary, Las Vegas (ECHL), Lowell, Wheeling (ECHL), Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Manitoba, Springfield, Providence, and Hershey.

After his three year tenure in Hershey — where he played in 78 games — Sabourin is headed to the Graz 99ers of the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga.