Hey look you guys, I still have a blog! My apologies for the extended absence. I can’t promise it won’t happen again, but for the time being I’m back with a couple of goodies foraged from the Russian press…
When New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather signed tough guy Derek Boogaard to a 4-year, $6.5 million contract last summer, the hockey world shook its collective head, sighed, and muttered “there he goes again.” And before the giant enforcer was felled by a concussion in early December, it looked like Sather had in fact saddled his team with yet another albatross contract. Unable to compete — or keep up — at a satisfactory level for head coach John Tortorella, Boogaard rarely saw more than four or five minutes of ice time a night, sometimes playing as few as three or four shifts in a game.
Boogaard’s injury — he’s not expected to play again this season — has allowed Sather to avoid having to make any tough decisions this year. But there are three more years remaining on his contract. And with the Rangers needing to re-sign a handful of core restricted free agents this summer, and likely to pursue big-ticket free agent Brad Richards on July 1st, Boogard’s $1.625 million worth of cap space must look awfully enticing.
Enter Andrei Nazarov, head coach of KHL goon squad Checkhov Vityaz. You know, the team famous for giving NHL/AHL-rejects Chris Simon, Darcy Verot, Brandon Sugden and Josh Gratton a place to ply their trade.
In addition to his duties with Vityaz, Nazarov, a former NHL pugilist himself, is also an assistant coach for the Russian national team. In that role, he is tasked with being the liaison between the team and Russian players in the NHL. As a result, Nazarov was in New York for Tuesday’s tilt between the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, checking up on Russian Ranger Artem Anisimov. But as Sport-Express reporter Vasily Osipov reveals in his post-game interview with Nazarov, the veteran of 571 NHL games and 1,409 penalty minutes also spoke with his former Minnesota Wild teammate Boogaard, and may have had a secondary purpose for his trip…
- Isn’t it annoying to you that they call you a Black Cloud? [All the teams Nazarov visited last season missed the playoffs, or made early exits.] The Rangers lost today…
- All these nicknames are how you journalists make your living – laughed Nazarov. Us hockey people regard this with humor. I think they really call me the Dove of Peace. Because I wish all our NHLers only good luck and success.
- How would you assess Anisimov’s aggressive and effective game?
- I’d like to refrain from public assessments until I talk with [national team head coach] Vyacheslav Bykov. But you yourself saw all of Artem’s games this season: the progress in his game is obvious. Tortorella is a unique and interesting coach, and that Anisimov was able to adapt to his requirements says a lot. I managed to talk to several representatives of the Rangers, and all of them unanimously praise our legionary. And it’s worth taking into account that he plays the center position, which is in rather short supply for Russian hockey. All in all, the only thing that was left for me to do was to congratulate Artem.
- Will Anisimov help the national team at the World Championship in Slovakia?
- That’s not an entirely reasonable question, in view of the fact that Artem’s team is in a desperate fight for a place in the playoffs. Incidentally, in speaking about Anisimov, we shouldn’t forget about our other legionary on the Rangers – Alexander Frolov. He has a serious injury, but it’s during just such difficult times that the support and attention of his homeland is important for any player.
- And how would you comment on your interest in Boogard?
- It’s clear that nothing has been decided yet, and that general manager Alexei Zhamnov is ultimately in charge of personnel questions for Vityaz. But I’ve known Derek ever since we played together for Minnesota, when he was taking his first steps in the NHL. Even then I guessed that Boogard would make some noise in the League. And that’s happened.
- I’ll phrase the question in another way: during your trip through the NHL are you searching for a fighter for Vityaz?
- First of all I’m here on national team business. But — I won’t hide — the problem you mentioned is solved…
Standard disclaimer: Like all reports in the Russian press, this one should be taken with a grain of salt until confirmed by a North American source.
Osipov also spoke to Anisimov after the game — about his season, the national team, and being the focus of recent trade rumors for Brad Richards. A translation of their conversation is available here…
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