Monday, May 13, 2024

New IIHF Sanctions On Russian Players Spell Trouble For Blackhawks’ Future Plans

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This weekend, the IIHF announced it would be imposing sanctions against Russian club CSKA Moscow, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, and new Flyers goaltender Ivan Fedotov. The three parties were involved in a series of events where they all “violated IIHF transfer agreements and had Fedotov play in the KHL while under active contract with the Flyers,” according to a report from Frank Seravalli. The way things were handled resulted in a fine of one million Swiss Francs (more than $1.1 million USD) to the Russian Federation, a three-year ban from representing Russia in international competition for Fedotov, and a two-year international transfer ban for CSKA Moscow.

The heavy sanctions are most effective in the case of the parties involved, but other teams and organizations could quickly find themselves at the center of the issue as a result. While the rules regarding transfers from Russia are often sticky, it had been possible in the past to skirt around them at times. With a new, attention-grabbing ruling being handed down this weekend, though, NHL teams will certainly be keeping an eye on the situation, and perhaps none more closely than the Blackhawks.

Chicago currently has two top prospects in Roman Kantserov and Ilya Safonov in the KHL, each with time left in the league before they can consider coming to the U.S. The Blackhawks are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Kantserov in particular, who was recently named a finalist for the KHL’s rookie of the year award but won’t be available for a few more years.

In those cases, the Blackhawks will play the cards they’ve already been dealt. But the recent developments are also undoubtedly playing a huge factor in the next huge decision in Chicago – the outcome of the No. 2 pick.

After staying in the second slot in last week’s draft lottery, the Blackhawks were immediately tasked with a big decision. With Macklin Celebrini all but already in San Jose, they’ll have their pick of anyone else in this year’s draft class. It didn’t take long for two main options to emerge in Ivan Demidov and Artyom Levshunov. While the latter is the top defenseman in his class and would fill a major need for the Blackhawks, the consensus seems to be that Demidov is the second-best player overall set to be drafted this year.

The biggest strike against Demidov, however, is the one year remaining on his KHL contract. While Chicago could deal with Levshunov as it pleases, including letting him stay at the NHL level right away, they would have to wait at least a year to truly see what they have in Demidov. This weekend’s news certainly doesn’t help matters, and the ruling could influence his decision to come over from Russia next year.

The precedent set by the IIHF this weekend may affect both current Blackhawks and the decisions of the team’s front office. While Chicago will have to be patient with Kantserov and Safonov as they journey closer to the NHL, they’re far from required to do the same with Demidov, a reality that will certainly affect their decision-making before this year’s draft.

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