WINNIPEG – Scratch one restricted free agent off the Winnipeg Jets’ negotiation list. Alexander Burmistrov has parted company with the NHL, at least for now.
Burmistrov, who fell out of favour with coach Claude Noel for a time last season, has signed a two-year deal with Ak Bars Kazan of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
“Through our conversations and correspondence with Alex and his agent, it became apparent Alex had a desire to continue his development as a young player in the KHL,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a brief statement Monday.
“He remains a very talented player within the Jets organization and we will continue to monitor his progress and development going forward.”
The Jets retain his NHL rights. He was earning $1.5 million a year and was one of 13 players on the list of restricted free agents the Jets have been negotiating with in recent weeks.
The 21-year-old centre had just four goals and six assists in 44 games last season, after spending the lockout with the Jets farm team in St. John’s, N.L., where he had two goals and nine assists in 22 games.
He also spent time riding the Jets’ bench last season, perhaps because Noel wasn’t happy with his slow adoption of the more north-south style of play he was encouraging. The coach kept his reasons to himself.
Burmistrov is a native of Kazan, Russia, and played one game for Ak Bars in 2008-09, before leaving to join the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League.
He didn’t get long in the OHL to develop his skills. The Atlanta Thrashers made Burmistrov the No. 8 pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft and inserted him into their lineup the next season.
More than a point-a-game player in the OHL, Burmistrov never had more than 28 points in an NHL season.
The way Burmistrov was handled is in sharp contrast to the way current Jets management have handled centre Mark Scheifele. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft, but after watching him in action the Jets opted to leave him with the Colts.
In 2011-12 he had 23 goals and 40 assists for Barrie plus another 12 points in the post season.
He upped than in 2012-13 when he had 39 goals and 40 assists in the regular season and another 41 points in the post season, as he led the Colts to within one game of qualifying for the Memorial Cup.
With Sheifele out with an injury for that final game, the Colts ended up losing Game 7 of the OHL final 3-2 to the London Knights. Scheifele, now 20, is expected to crack the Jets lineup this season.