Commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear Monday that former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, who was suspended indefinitely by the league following a domestic violence charge, was ineligible to play at the World Cup, but the Russian Hockey Federation is holding out hope the NHL will change its mind.
Russian news outlet TASS reported Tuesday that the RHF “maintains close dialog” with the NHL regarding Voynov’s eligibility and the Russians are hoping that Voynov will be permitted to play at the September tournament. The RHF went so far as to say they’re “holding negotiations” with the league, and IIHF president Rene Fasel has been included in the talks.
"The Russian Ice Hockey Federation hopes that the organizers of the international competition will make a positive decision on the issue and the defender will be allowed to be included in the roster of the Russian national team," the RHF told TASS.
Voynov’s inclusion on the Russian roster has been an issue ever since he was named to the team on May 27, which makes it seem as though the chances he actually suits up for Russia are slim.
Shortly following Russia’s announcement that Voynov had been added to the roster, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league was going to review the 26-year-old’s status. But Daly added it was not his “current expectation” that Voynov would be allowed to play at the World Cup. Daly’s words were backed up Monday when, ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, Bettman said the RHF had been informed before their roster announcement that Voynov could not play.
In July 2015, Voynov entered a plea of no contest to a domestic violence charge dating back to October 2014. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, and upon his release in September from the Seal Beach Detention Center in California, Voynov was taken into custody by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Shortly thereafter, Voynov chose to leave North America voluntarily and return to Russia.
He spent the 2015-16 season playing for SKA St. Petersburg, where he registered seven assists in 23 games and two additional assists in 15 post-season contests. Voynov played for Russia at the 2016 World Championship, scoring one goal and three points in 10 games.
If Voynov isn’t allowed to attend the tournament, there are a number of defensemen who could replace him on Russia’s roster, including several from the NHL. Nikita Zadorov, Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Tryamkin would all be youthful additions to the Russian club, with veterans Fedor Tyutin and Evgeny Medvedev also options.