The Winnipeg Jets will be without Alexander Burmistrov for the foreseeable future.
Burmistrov is returning to his home city in Russia to play for the Kontinental Hockey League’s Ak Bars Kazan after reportedly signing a two-year deal to return to his former squad where he played prior to joining the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts for the 2009-2010 season. For Burmistrov a return home was likely his only realistic option after the Jets tendered a qualifying offer and thus narrowed his NHL options out of Winnipeg. Unfortunately for Burmistrov, the NHL metaphorically hogties it’s rookies when they sign their 3-year entry level contracts because as a restricted free agent, your parent club basically has the right of first refusal and can match any offer or take the compensatory draft pick(s) which few clubs are willing to part ways with. At the basic level, Burmistrov and/or his agent let it be known he did not want to return to Winnipeg, even for a year, and the Jets calling the bluff, tendered a qualifying offer, and Burmistrov said in Cartman (character on American television Comedy Central’s South Park) fashion (paraphrasing here) “Forget you guys, I’m going home.”
After learning of his defection home, the Jets and General Manager released this statement to NHL.com.
“Through our conversations and correspondence with Alex and his agent, it became apparent Alex had a desire to continue his development as a young player in the KHL,” Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement. “He remains a very talented player within the Jets organization and we will continue to monitor his progress and development going forward.”
From that statement, my question is this: If the general manager says Burmistrov ‘remains a very talented player’ then why was he on the third and fourth lines last season? When the Jets relocated to Winnipeg from Atlanta, Burmistrov was apart a relatively young talented core that includes Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien and Ondrej Pavelec that the organization could have developed into a playoff team for years to come. It obviously didn’t and wasn’t going to work between Jets head coach Claude Noel (who the Jets gave a year’s extentsion to prior to the draft) and Burmistrov. Noel took a former 8th overall pick and potential 30+ goals, 50+ points and put him on the grind lines for much of last season. That’s not saying the Jets don’t get important production from their bottom 6, but Burmistrov is a 2nd line centre on Winnipeg’s squad. If you go to the Jets depth chart on their website, Burmistrov is now oddly enough listed as the second line centre, but it appears to be as of the last game of the 2013 season in which Jokinen did not play.
In Russia, Burmistrov will likely play out his two-year agreement in the KHL and if he regains his pre-NHL form that made him the Atlanta Thrashers first round pick in 2010, he may return to North America to finish out his additional one-year, as per the qualifying offer, with Winnipeg or have enough value that the Jets could find a suitor for the young forward. Burmistrov will be 23 when his KHL contract expires and thus still very much in the prime of his career. If he can show scouts that he still has the scoring touch that he entered into the league with and displayed his rookie year, he may be able to play himself to another NHL franchise.