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Report: Lupul to join KHL’s last-place team...maybe

2012 NHL All-Star Game - Player Portraits

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 29: Joffrey Lupul #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Team Chara poses prior to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place on January 29, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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According to various reports, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul has agreed to join Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg -- currently the worst team in the KHL -- on a lockout deal.

Lupul confirmed the signing to the Toronto Sun on Tuesday, a day after telling Sportsnet’s Darren Millard the deal was close to being finalized.

There’s just one catch.

Acording to rules implemented by the KHL in September (see here), Lupul seemingly fails to meet the criteria for a locked-out NHLer to join the league.

That said, Sport-Express’ Slava Malamud makes a salient point:

Lupul isn’t eligible to sign in KHL due to the league’s rules. In the KHL, though, rules are merely hurdles, not obstacles, so let’s see...

— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) October 30, 2012

Andrey Osadchenko of The Hockey News notes that no Russian media outlet, including the Avtomobilist website, have announced the Lupul signing as of yet.

Avtomobilist is off to a dreadful start to its KHL campaign, winning just four of its first 21 games (one of which came via shootout.)

With 13 points, they’re seven back of the league’s second-worst team, Dinamo Riga, and have scored a league-worst 42 goals thus far.

Coached by longtime NHL defenseman Igor Ulanov, Avtomobilist’s lineup is largely bereft of talent. The team does have some ex-NHLers in Branislav Mezei and Sergei Gusev, but has yet to make a lockout signing.

As such, Lupul would be a big get for the club. He’s coming off a breakout campaign with the Leafs, one that saw him register a career-high 67 points and make his first-ever All Star appearance.

UPDATE: From the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle...

Because of some pretty catastrophic injuries, Lupul has only skated in 143 NHL games and doesn’t meet any of the other criteria, despite putting up 25 goals and 67 points in 66 games last season with the Leafs en route to his first all-star game appearance.

A KHL spokesman said it is possible to waive the strict definition of the rule in some cases, which likely apply to Lupul given his injuries are what kept him out of 150 NHL games.

Sounds like a reasonable explanation.