The Halifax Mooseheads are suddenly at risk of watching another high-scoring forward bolt overseas.
Yuri Cheremetiev, who tied for the Mooseheads’ lead in scoring last season, has been offered a two-year contract by CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League. He hasn’t signed, but will travel to Russia in July for a tryout.
The 20-year-old was born in Moscow, but grew up in the U.S. after moving to Stoughton, Mass., when he was five.
“The biggest thing is, he doesn’t even remember what Russia looks like,” said Cheremetiev’s father, Vadim. “We agreed, at this point, just to go to Russia and see how he likes it.”
The Mooseheads already lost sniper Jan Stransky, who signed a two-year contract with Plzen of the Czech ExtraLiga last month. Stansky was the team’s top scorer after arriving from the Gatineau Olympiques in a mid-season trade.
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Cheremetiev, who had 49 points in 65 games last season, was picked by CSKA Moscow in the second round (33rd overall) of this week’s inaugural KHL draft. Sergei Nemchinov, who was named CSKA’s head coach last month, coached Cheremetiev in the Canada-Russia Challenge last November.
Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell said yesterday the news is no surprise to him. He said it’s similar to an NHL tryout, which QMJHL players get regularly, although he admitted it could “definitely hurt our hockey team.”
“I’ve talked to him about it a couple of times and it’s a great experience for him to go and see what it’s all about in that part of the world,” Russell said. “If things don’t work out there, then we’d be happy to have him back here.”
By offering Cheremetiev a contract, CSKA is believed to retain his KHL signing rights until April 30, 2017. The minimum KHL salary is believed to be more than $100,000 US.
CSKA’s camp starts July 20 and includes a 10-day stint in Finland.