Kunlun recruits nine new players, Ponikarovsky stays put, Lepisto, Velichkin on the move. Khl.ru presents the highlights from a busy week on the transfer market.
Kunlun Red Star on Thursday announced it had agreed one-year deals with three new players: experienced defenseman Rinat Ibragimov, 31, who played in every KHL season and won the Gagarin Cup with Magnitogorsk in 2013-14; Canadian international defenseman Geoff Kinrade, also 31, a Calder Cup winner in 2010-11 with the Binghamton Senators (and veteran of a solitary NHL appearance for Tampa Bay Lightning); and 32-year-old Belarusian international forward Andrei Kostitsyn, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens (420 games, 110 goals, 119 assists) and Nashville Predators (27 games, 7 goals, 9 assists), and like Kinrade, a Calder Cup Champion (with the Hamilton Bulldogs, 2006-07).
The Chinese club also announced it had persuaded veteran forward Alexei Ponikarovsky to stay on for another year. The 37-year-old Ukrainian-Canadian amassed 342 (143+199) points in 739 NHL appearances for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils and Winnipeg Jets, and also won the Gagarin Cup with SKA in 2014-15.
Earlier in the week, Kunlun signed six more players – all free agents – on one-year contracts: Swedish international forward Richard Gynge, 30, for whom Red Star will be the fifth KHL club, following spells with Dynamo Moscow, Lev Praha, Admiral, and Neftekhimik; 25-year-old ex-SKA goaltender Alexander Skrynnik, a free agent following the expiry of his contract with SKA; 26-year-old goalie Georgy Boyarshinov, who last season had 6 outings in the KHL for Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk; 31-year-old Russian defenseman Evgeny Dubrovin, whose most recent spell in the KHL was with Avtomobilist (from 2009 to 2011) after one year at Sibir; 25-year-old ex-Traktor forward Mikhail Mokin, and 30-year-old forward Alexander Shibayev, formerly of Vityaz, Dynamo Moscow and HC MVD.
One man traveling in the opposite direction, from China to Russia, is Igor Velichkin. The 29-year-old forward, who won gold in the old Russian Championship with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, and has played in every season of the KHL in shifts with Traktor, Vityaz, Avtomobilist, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, and last season, Kunlun Red Star, became a free agent during the week and has signed up for one year at Amur.
Jokerit has signed Finnish international defenseman Sami Lepisto. The 32-year-old, whose resume shows stints with the Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks (NHL totals: 186 games, 7 goals, 29 assists) and World Championship gold in 2011, began his career with Jokerit but spent the 2016-17 season at Salavat Yulaev.
Another player headed for Helsinki is 25-year-old Finnish international defenseman Tommi Kivisto, who has moved to Jokerit from Avtomobilist. His name may ring a bell to readers in Alberta, as he spent the 2008-09 season with the Red Deer Rebels in the Western Hockey League.
Severstal has signed 23-year-old defenseman Valery S. Vasilyev, who spent the 2016-17 season with Avtomobilist and Avangard.
Ugra defenseman Nikita Khlystov has returned to former club Traktor in exchange for financial compensation. It will be the 23-year-old’s third spell with the Chelyabinsk team.
23-year-old forward Eduard Gimatov has signed a two-year deal with Salavat Yulaev, following the expiry last week of his contract with Neftekhimik. Joining him in Ufa is 22-year-old goaltender Andrei Kareyev, previously with Novokuznetsk and Neftekhimik.
Neftekhimik has hired Czech forward Robin Hanzl from HC Litvinov. The 28-year-old center, who made 8 appearances for the Czech Republic in the World Championships and recorded a goal and an assist, has signed a one-year contract with the Nizhnekamsk men.
Finally, HC Sochi has signed 28-year-old Swedish forward Simon Onerud on a one-year contract.