On the heels of Nikita Tryamkin’s decision to leave the team and return to the KHL, Canucks GM Jim Benning issued a statement to give his club’s perspective.
“We are disappointed Nikita chose to sign in the KHL, but also recognize from what he told us in our exit meetings that this was a family decision first,” Benning said. “He has a chance to be an impact player in the NHL and we offered him a two-year extension. But for now he is home and we will move ahead with building this team with other young players.”
Not a lot of surprising things in that statement, but there’s a lot of unanswered questions also.
Certainly, this could very well be a “family decision first.” He wouldn’t be the first 22-year-old to be homesick.
Tryamkin didn’t speak much English when he arrived, and communicated with the use of a translator at the Canucks end of season media availability. Many members of the media reported that his English was improving rapidly though, as he was seen joking with teammates.
His wife moved to Vancouver with him, so he wasn’t alone in town, although you can imagine the difficulty she may have had while her husband was away on road trips. Choosing a place to play is always a family decision, we shouldn’t forget.
Benning revealed that he offered a two-year contract extension, which is fairly standard practice for a player in Tryamkin’s situation. We don’t know the dollar value of the offer, of course. Unlike his last deal, Tryamkin won’t be bound by entry-level contract restrictions in his next contract.
The Canucks, if you remember, brought Tryamkin over near the end of the 2015-16 season. Like Brock Boeser this season, the Canucks burned a year of his entry-level deal. That may seem like a poor decision now, although it was likely instrumental to get him to make the move to North America in the first place.
The last sentence of Benning’s statement is the one that provides hope: “for now he is home.”
Canucks fans will hope that “for now” doesn’t become forever. Tryamkin was one of the true bright spots on an otherwise dark season on the west coast.
This isn’t the first time Vancouver has lost a young Russian player to the KHL. Artem Chubarov left for his homeland during the NHL lockout season in 2004-05 and never came back. Second-round pick Kirill Koltsov made a similar move while with their AHL affiliate in 2005, as did Sergei Shirokov in 2011.
The best hope from Vancouver’s perspective is that Tryamkin doesn’t sign a long-term deal in the KHL, develops into a better player in a year or two, and gets enticed to return with a big contract.
It wouldn’t be unheard of. Leo Komarov left the Leafs organization for one season to play with Moscow Dynamo in 2013-14 before returning to the team as a productive NHL player. Alex Radulov left for the KHL on two occasions, only to return to North America.
Have confirmed that the #Canucks retain Tryamkin's NHL rights until July 1, 2022
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) April 20, 2017
Unlike Radulov this past summer, and Jaromir Jagr years before that, Tryamkin won’t be able to sign with any team he chooses. The Canucks own his NHL rights until 2022.
If ice time was indeed a driving force causing him to leave, as he appeared to suggest in a Russian-language interview, then him developing into a bonafide top-four defenceman alleviates that concern for all parties involved. If that happens, his bargaining power will be as enormous as he is.