Burmistrov not going anywhere: Agent 0
Winnipeg Jets centre Alex Burmistrov checks New York Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik in the first period of their NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden in New York during the regular season. (REUTERS)
Did he, or didn't he?
The Curious Case of Alexander Burmistrov isn't likely to set off alarm bells around the NHL, maybe not even here in Winnipeg.
After all, Burmistrov was a bit player with the Jets this season, showing only flashes of individual skill as a still-developing 20-year-old who could be knocked down by a well-aimed sneeze.
But stories of his courtship by Russia's KHL does raise some interesting questions.
An online report out of Edmonton Monday indicated Burmistrov has a contract offer from the KHL's Ak Bars Kazan for next season. This despite the fact he still has one year, at $1.5 million, remaining on his NHL deal with the Jets
The story said Kazan's director, Shamil Khusnutdinov, confirmed the team had already talked to Burmistrov and Maxim Mayorov of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Not so fast, said Burmistrov's agent.
"Nobody talked to me," Mark Gandler said, Monday afternoon. "The guy is under contract. End of discussion."
Asked about the report, Gandler was blunt.
"If people in Edmonton want to print gossip from the Russian papers without checking sources ... all it takes is two minutes to make a phone call," he said. "They obviously didn't do their homework."
Now, it wouldn't be the first time a Russian has walked out on an NHL deal to play in his native country.
For instance, Alexander Radulov recently rejoined Nashville after three seasons in Russia.
Radulov's return late this season, bolstering the Predators for the playoffs, and his plans to play out the remainder of his deal to become a free agent this summer was the subject of considerable debate among NHL GMs.
But NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says the landscape has changed since Radulov skipped Music City.
"We have an agreement with the KHL that each will respect each other's contracts," Daly said. "We did not have that agreement at the time of Radulov's signing in Russia."
Of course, agreements with Russian teams aren't always worth the paper they're written on.
"It's not the Russian teams we look to - it would be the KHL that we would ask to intervene if necessary," Daly said, at the same time acknowledging there's only so much the NHL could do.
"We do what we can to prevent that, but sometimes it's a matter that's beyond our control."
Gandler, who has a somewhat controversial history of contract holdouts with another Russian, Alexei Yashin, wouldn't even play the what-if game where Burmistrov was concerned.
"That's like asking me, 'Am I divorcing my wife?', and if I say, 'No,' (then) asking me if I was going to divorce my wife, how would I do it?" he said.
If the Jets are worried about this, they're not letting on, declining comment.
Burmistrov, training with the Russians for the World Hockey Championship, wasn't available for comment.
But you could see how a stint with his hometown team - he was born in Kazan and played for the organization in 2008-09 - might be intriguing for the 20-year-old. Particularly after a Jets season in which he didn't exactly establish himself.
You can call his 13-goal, 28-point campaign a career season if you want. I'd call it a letdown.
Atlanta's first-round pick, eighth overall, in the 2010 draft, Burmistrov looked like a kid among men at times. Which is basically what he was.
He was also a P.R. dream, taking to the outdoor rink in River Heights for the occasional game of shinny with local kids.
He didn't seem unhappy, although he likely didn't get his tires pumped in his exit meeting with head coach Claude Noel.
Perhaps his agent is right, and this is just another load of Russian gossip.
Either that or we're about to see another shot fired in the modern-day version of the Cold War.
Aimed right at Winnipeg.