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


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 or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.