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Could we see the NHL return of … Alexei Yashin?

Jul 18, 2011, 11:30 AM EDT

yashinasanisleap AP

If you want to be technical about it, Alexei Yashin will receive an NHL salary whether he plays another second of hockey in 2011-12. In fact, he’ll receive a bit more than $2.2 million per year for the next four years thanks to the New York Islanders’ decision to buy out his massive contract way back in June 2007.

Of course, there’s a big difference between getting paid to play hockey at (or near) its highest level and being paid simply to stay away from the rink. Yashin’s future is now in serious – but perhaps intriguing? – doubt after it was revealed that SKA St. Petersburg opted against giving him another contract.

Yashin’s obvious red flags

Naturally, it’s not a great sign when the KHL sours on a player, especially a prominent Russian ex-star such as Yashin. That being said, it’s not as if we haven’t been through this drill before. Evgeni Nabokov‘s KHL run was a spectacular failure, but he still received NHL interest when he expressed the desire to return.

Now, a direct comparison isn’t totally valid because of Yashin’s star-crossed reputation. The Ottawa Senators probably rank at the top of the list of teams who are probably uninterested in bringing him in after he set out the 1999-2000 season thanks to a contract tiff. There were plenty of questions about his character and locker room influence when he played his last NHL season at 33 years old, let alone at 37.

The case for giving Yashin a chance

That being said, a team desperate for offense might want to at least consider taking a low-risk, medium-reward gamble on Yashin. For all the criticisms he (justifiably) receives, Yashin was still fairly productive – at least on the offensive end. He scored 50 goals in 58 games in 2006-07, helping the Islanders make their last postseason run. His final season with SKA was underwhelming (33 points in 52 games), but he was a steady scorer in most other situations. Yashin scored 187 points in 220 regular season games in Russia and 40 points in 43 playoff games.

It’s reasonable to expect that Yashin’s bad reputation (and perhaps an unreasonable asking price) will derail almost any chance he has at an NHL comeback. That being said, a smart GM should at least take a look at his team and wonder if a cheap Yashin could actually fit in. If the Chicago Blackhawks can talk themselves into thinking that Daniel Carcillo might improve their locker room chemistry, then a team can rationalize just about anything these days.

Yashin’s NHL return is highly unlikely, but let us ask: would any team actually be wise in giving him a shot? Let us know how you feel in the comments.

(H/T to On the Forecheck.)

  1. unknowneric - Jul 18, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    If you have a strong locker room full of guys that are going to call him out on any slacking, sure. If you can get him cheap that is…

    Too many question marks for a big contract.

    • James O'Brien - Jul 18, 2011 at 3:07 PM

      Agreed, the only way it would work is if he goes cheap. Even then, it’s a bit of a risk.

    • joeypucks - Jul 18, 2011 at 4:33 PM

      Absolutely correct about a strong locker room. Although I could not speak of his attitude, only about what I saw. I was a season ticket holder for the Islanders when we had him on the Island. To be honest… it was bitter-sweet because I loved Big Z and thought he was a no brainer to keep and be part of that building cornerstone of the team (ie Stanley cup Bruins now). But we did need scoring and Yashin was that. We had some poor forwards and as much as I hated to see Chara go (not to mention a 1st round pick!), I thought getting Yashin was not only add instand goals but maybe more importantly – told other forwards we were serious and to come play for us. But we never got them, maybe because we spent stupid money on him. But! in his defense.. in watching Yashin on a nightly basis, he WAS a stud. It was an easy game plan for teams to play us, just cover Yashin. Most nights he worked hard but often had 2 guys drapped on him, and usually he still come out of the corners or off the boards with the puck, but after that effort it usually went for not as (no offense, literally lol, to his linemates) if he passed it, the puck ended going the other direction if didn’t shoot it himself. And I would imagine that would wear almost any guy out in the long run. And also effect him mentally that the organization could never get him an all star winger. An Adam Oates to his Brett Hull or Trottier to his Bossy!
      So to answer the question… just as you say eric, if gettin’ him cheap… I would take the chance. I mean if he has some gas left in the tank, how mentally retarted can he be to effect a locker room? I would bet my house that put in the right situation, where he is not the go to guy, he would flourish. Maybe a PP specialist and steady 2nd or 3rd line center! Look at what 40 something Rechi did in the playoffs.
      But in retro spect, I would have kept Chara. We as an organization must “take the cake” in stupid aquisitions and trades! Want to laugh just go look us up! Chara, Lafontaine, Luongo, Ziggy, Brewer, Schneider, McCabe (all in their prime or starting their prime) just to name a few.

  2. joeypucks - Jul 18, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    BTW NBC, you should get some actual hockey fans to work your hockey website, as that is not Yashin on the cover story shot in Red with arms up.

  3. bbk1000 - Jul 18, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    There is always a chance Yashin will get an NHL contract, perhaps a long term contract with one team as Sather is still out there destroying the NY Rangers.

    Sather might be the worst GM in NHL history when all is said and done, regardless of his Oiler years….

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