Dan Milstein, an NHL agent to many Russian players, did an interview in Russian today, and he had something to say on a lot of players he represents.
First on former Leafs:
About Rinat Valiev, he says, in contradiction to an earlier report, that Valiev is waiting for his Qualifying Offer as an RFA from the Montréal Canadiens, and then his rights were traded to Ak Bars Kazan recently, but that was done without consultation with Valiev or Milstein. That sort of trade of rights from one team to another is normal in the KHL. He mentions that Valiev was called right up to the NHL after being traded by Toronto, and this is where we need to remember this is an agent talking. As we well know, Montréal was soft-tanking and had many injuries on the team. I don’t think that’s a sign Valiev has NHL-potential.
Nikita Soshnikov is in much the same situation with St. Louis, and Milstein says that the Blues have already made an extension offer. So again, in contradiction of an earlier report, Soshnikov may accept that offer or he may return to the KHL where his rights are now owned by SKA, a much, much better team than where he started out.
Next on the Current member of the team, he said this about Nikita Zaitsev:
Nikita is satisfied with his season, they are also happy with the team. They work with him right, they have found the right approach to him. He is more used in the minority, he became a universal defense player.
That’s the horrible Google Translate of the original, and the phrase in the minority, means on the PK.
About a potential future member of the team:
Is Igor Ozhiganov going to Toronto?
We will communicate in the coming days, Igor will make a decision.
So that’s clear as mud. But one thing to note is that the coming days also include Mike Babcock’s scheduled trip to the World Championships. The Leafs have not said if any GM-like person is going with him, but Frederik Andersen said in his interview with Daren Dreger that Babcock was coming to look at some players. Last year, Lou Lamoriello went with him to Europe.
Igor Ozhiganov is not on the Russian national team, but a map can show you how far Copenhagen is from Moscow. And it seems that Milstein is in Copenhagen right now, according to this interview.
Milstein mentions some other Russians who are gathering interest from NHL teams. Most of them are young undrafted wingers who aren’t quite at KHL level full time, so not as good as Yegor Korshkov. One name that gets a lot of attention is Bogdan Kiselevich, who is a 28-year-old left shooting defender from CSKA (the team of Zaitsev and Ozhiganov). He’s mostly a defensive specialist, and if he were right-shooting, he’d been in the NHL already. This might be the year he makes the jump, but he is going to cost some money to pry out of CSKA’s hands.