According to Joffrey Lupul, he is off to the KHL to play with Avtomobilist.
According to the KHL’s own guidelines for signing locked out NHL players, however, the Toronto Maple Leafs winger doesn’t appear to be eligible to play there.
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg is currently one of the worst teams in the league, with just three regulation wins in 21 games and few recognizable names.
(Branislav Mezei may be the “biggest name” among the few former NHLers on the team.)
Very few North American players have signed in the KHL since the start of the lockout, at least in part because of some guidelines that make it hard for “foreign” players to play for Russia-based teams.
“Our clubs have been granted the opportunity to enter into contracts and place on their main rosters no more than three NHL players, and the previously established limit of 25 players per team may be exceeded by the addition of these players,” KHL vice-president Vladimir Shalaev said last month. “For Russian clubs, only one of the three NHL players may be a foreigner (non-Russian), and this player must meet one of the following criteria set down to ensure that only top-level foreign players come to play in the Kontinental Hockey League.”
Those criteria include playing 150 NHL games the past three years, experience in the KHL, representing their country internationally the last two years or being a Stanley Cup winner, finalist or major individual award winner.
Because of some pretty catastrophic injuries, Lupul has only skated in 143 NHL games and doesn’t meet any of the other criteria, despite putting up 25 goals and 67 points in 66 games last season with the Leafs en route to his first all-star game appearance.
A KHL spokesman said it is possible to waive the strict definition of the rule in some cases, which likely apply to Lupul given his injuries are what kept him out of 150 NHL games.
As long as he gets the all clear, he will become only the fourth North American locked out player in the KHL, joining Joe Pavelski, Ryan McDonagh and Evander Kane.
As for why Lupul picked bottom feeding Avtomobilist, my guess is he has a relationship with head coach Igor Ulanov, who played a couple of years in Edmonton and has some connections in that city.