For some Winnipeg Jets fans it may come as a shock. For others, it’s news they’ve been expecting, but not hoping for. Regardless, it is the most interesting story of the Jets’ offseason so far: the potential return of Alexander Burmistrov. The return isn’t immanent, but in an interview with Prosports.ru, Burmistrov indicated he could play in the NHL in 2015-16.
According to Prosports.ru (via the Winnipeg Sun) Burmistrov stated, “In any case, I do not believe that my story in the NHL is over. I will almost certainly return there.” He also added, “For me, the money does not play any role. The dream (of playing in the NHL) is still alive.”
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) August 15, 2014
The 22-year-old Russian forward signed a two-year contract with his hometown team AK Bars Kazan after the 2012-13 NHL season. However, as a restricted free agent he is still property of the Winnipeg Jets. Burmistrov was known to have clashed with former head coach Claude Noel regarding his role on the team and was assigned to the AHL during the 2012-13 lockout. Based on this and his production in Winnipeg, fans may be quick to assume or hope that Burmistrov would be traded or signed and traded upon his return to the NHL.
Burmistrov recorded 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points in 76 games in his first season in Winnipeg in 2011-12. He followed that up with 10 points in 44 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. It’s also worth noting that he failed to make Russia’s Olympic team, although he was a member of the Russian squad that won gold at the 2014 IIHF World Hockey Championship.
While a trade is possible, Burmistrov is still young and has plenty of potential, especially offensively. Isn’t it worth giving him another opportunity? There is a chance he’s matured as a person and a player during his time away from the Jets. Garret Hohl of SB Nation’s Arctic Ice Hockey indicated that Burmistrov and Paul Maurice have had positive discussions.
Sure, this is all still a season away, but if Maurice can figure out a way to get the best out of Burmistrov, it could result in a great boost to a team that has struggled to add any talent through free agent. Getting back the eighth overall pick from the 2010 draft on a relatively inexpensive contract could end up being Winnipeg’s best move of the year.