How the Jets should handle the Alexander Burmistrov situation

By Chris Dubiel

Reports came out of Edmonton yesterday saying that Winnipeg Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov was offered a contract by Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL. There is nothing wrong with teams from other leagues offering contracts to NHLers, but Burmistrov still has one year and $1.5 million left on his NHL contract.

Burmistrov’s agent Mark Gandler was quick to announce that no one had talked to him, telling the Winnipeg Sun, “The guy is under contract. End of discussion.”  He added that he thinks the report is nothing more than Russian gossip.

Reportedly, the KHL team has already talked to Burmistrov, according to the Edmonton report, but Burmistrov wasn’t available to comment because he’s training for the Worlds.

Where there’s fishy business in hockey, look no further than the KHL. It was Salavat Yulaev Ufa that poached Alexander Radulov away from the Nashville Predators in 2008. At the time, Radulov still had one year remaining on his contract and he’s finishing that year up now after a three-year stint in the KHL.

Burmistrov was drafted 8th overall by the Atlanta Thrasher in 2010 and at 20, is still developing as a member of the Jets organization. He scored 13 goals and added 15 assists in 76 games on the 2011-12 campaign. It was a pretty quiet and unimpressive season from the Russian center, only improving his point total by eight from his rookie season in Atlanta, in which he played 74 games.

The Jets are counting on Burmistrov to be one of their top six forwards for years to come, and still has plenty of room to grow, being only 20-years-old. Playing a full season at age 19 may have stunted his growth, or revealed that he’ll be no more than a serviceable NHL centerman. However, suggestions that he should spend a year in St. John’s just don’t make sense to me.

It was interesting that the Jets declined to comment on the rumors and it will be just as interesting to hear what they will say when they finally do.

With the situation as cloudy as it is now, if the Jets really want to develop Burmistrov and give him the best possible chance to grow, they let him know that he gets another chance at it this season. Threatening a demotion to the AHL only makes that KHL contract and playing for his hometown team, an organization he’s familiar with, all that more enticing.

Although he already has 150 NHL games under his belt, he is still growing and developing and the Jets must handle this situation delicately unless they don’t mind him skating overseas.

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