Defensive prospect Alex Alexeyev has been loaned to Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL for the start of the 2020-21 season, the Capitals announced on Thursday. In a normal year, this would not be a positive move for his development, but it has become somewhat necessary given all the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
NHL teams want their prospects to play in North America. Sometimes circumstances dictate they have to stay in Europe, but the teams want those players in North America as soon as possible so they can learn the North American game and so the team can have better contact and communication with the player. Rarely is it ever a good sign when a player goes from Europe to North America then leaves to play in Europe again, but this is going to be a growing trend in 2020.
No one is quite sure when the 2020-21 NHL season is going to start or what it will look like when it does. A lot of that uncertainty stems from the financial implications of not playing or continuing to play without fans. As a gate-driven league, it may not make financial sense for the NHL to return with no idea of when fans could possibly return. That is even more true for minor and junior leagues.
For the AHL, there is no big TV contract. Those teams depend on the revenue generated by fans attending the games to keep the lights on and so it is unclear when or if the AHL, or any other North American hockey league besides the NHL, even could return to play at all in 2020.
But the prospects need to play for their development. While the status of North American teams remains up in the air, European leagues are returning to play. The regular season in the KHL has already begun and the teams are playing.actual games making Europe an appealing option as opposed to prospects waiting for their respective leagues to return to play in North America.