The deadline for the Vancouver Canucks or any other NHL club to actually sign European free agents is June 1st. The window closes and then opens back up on July 13th. In the interim, although a player can’t officially sign on the dotted line, he can announce his intentions, and it appears Russian free agent forward Andrei Kuzmenko will be doing so the 2nd week of June. His agent Dan Milstein updated the timetable.
Initially there were hopes that having narrowed down his selections, Kuzmenko might crank out an announcement before this first deadline. In reality he’s taking a bit more time.
The 26-year-old right-shot winger finished second in overall scoring in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Russia’s top pro league. His SKA St. Petersburg team was eliminated in the West Conference Finals against his former club, CSKA Moscow, in seven games.
CSKA Moscow, under head coach Sergei Fedorov, went on to take the Gagarin Cup championship in seven games over Metallurg Magnitogorsk, coming back from down 3-1 in games to win the championship in late April. Fedorov later won KHL coach-of-the-year honours.
Before moving on to St. Pete’ four seasons ago, Kuzmenko helped win two titles during his four years with CSKA, one as a 19-year-old in 2015-’16.
Since 2018, Kuzmenko’s scoring statistics have ascended, progressively tallying 12, 14, 18, and then 20 goals, and 31, 33, 37, and 53 points. That delightful bounce this past season has NHL general managers drooling a bit. As Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford pointed out last week, Kuzmenko is the top free agent coming out of Russia.
Never a bad thing talent wise.
Again, Kuzmenko did play two pro’ seasons in Russia with Vancouver Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin, a fact that local fans, pundits and team management hope will give the Canucks an edge. The problem is, Kuzmenko, destined to be known in North America as “Kooz”, knows a handful of other former Russian teammates now playing in the NHL.