Former Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolai Antropov is the latest player to leave the National Hockey League to join the Kontinental Hockey League.
The 33-year-old unrestricted free agent has signed a two-year deal with Astana Barys, a club located in his native country of Kazakhstan. He recorded 16 points in 26 games for Barys during this past season’s NHL lockout.
Antropov is coming off of a four-year, $16.25 million contract after spending the past four seasons with the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise. This past NHL season, the power forward tallied just six goals and twelve assists in 40 games played.
The 6’6”, 245 lb. beast was originally drafted in the first round, tenth overall, by the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Antropov played the better part of nine seasons for the blue & white, really coming into his own in the 2007-08 season and in 2008-09 when he was dealt to the New York Rangers at the trade deadline. Three times a twenty-goal-scorer, the Big Kazakh saw his best overall production in the 2009-10 campagin, amassing 24 goals and 43 assists for 67 points in his first year in Atlanta.
In 788 career regular season games over 13 seasons, Antropov recorded 193 goals, 272 assists, 465 points, and 627 penalty minutes. He becomes the fifth NHL player to bolt for the KHL this offseason, following the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Alex Burmistrov, and Kurtis Foster.
KHL to Expand for 2013-14 Season
The mighty Kontinental Hockey League will be expanding from 26 to 28 teams for the upcoming 2013-14 season. The young league’s Manifest Destiny will see them venturing both to the south and to the east of their existing footprint by adding Admiral Vladivostok and Medvescak Zagreb.
In 2008, the KHL replaced the Russian Superliga, a league featuring teams located only in Russia. In its first year, the KHL replaced organizations in Belarus, Latvia, and Kazakhstan that were once part of the former Soviet League that, much like the Soviet Union, fell in the early 1990s.
Last season, the KHL finally expanded outside of the borders of the former Soviet Union, adding Slovan Bratislava in Slovakia, Donbass Donetsk in Ukraine, and Lev Prague in the Czech Republic. Of this year’s expansion franchises, Admiral Vladivostok might be domestic, but it is located in Russia’s far eastern region. Medvescak Zagreb is located in Croatia.
If the rumors are true, the KHL intends to grow to become a 32-team entity. The league is already spread over eight countries and looks poised to poach clubs from rival European leagues, including the Finnish league’s Jokerit Helsinki, set to jump to the KHL for the 2014-15 season.
How do you feel about the KHL? Is this league on its way to becoming a more viable alternative, capable of looting more and more NHL talent? Leave a comment or tweet me @BostonNumber9 or my team @TMMotS and @FanSidedNHL.