Nikita Tryamkin is a new man, according to his agent, and wants to return to the Vancouver Canucks next season.
It’s been more than four years since the 6-foot-8 Russian defenceman left Vancouver, opting to return to his hometown team, Yekaterinburg Automobilist of the KHL.
Tryamkin was ready to return last year, and even had conversations with head coach Travis Green, but couldn’t reach a deal with the Canucks given the team’s cap uncertainty, not to mention questions regarding the NHL season as a whole due to the pandemic.
“We’ve had some very short preliminary discussions [recently],” said Tryamkin’s agent Todd Diamond in an interview with Don Taylor and Rick Dhaliwal’s new television show on CHEK.
Diamond said he will be speaking to the Canucks in the near future, with the hope of hammering out a deal for his client to return to the NHL.
“Nikita wants to return to the NHL… He still has the same desire to show people he can be a full-time, successful player in the NHL.”
Diamond described Tryamkin’s play in the KHL as “very consistent and very solid” over the last four years, adding that his contributions aren’t always reflected on the scoresheet.
Tryamkin scored 25 points (9-16-25) in 51 KHL games in his first season back in Russia in 2017-18, which led to a number of accolades, including a spot on Russia’s team at the World Championships, and being named to the KHL’s First All-Star Team.
He hasn’t been able to replicate that offensive success since, though he did make a second appearance in the KHL All-Star Game during the 2018-19 season. During the 2020-21 season, Tryamkin tallied 15 points (3-12-15) in 60 games.
“Making space, making life easier for the goalie, making good first passes, and being a physical presence when it’s called for,” are Tryamkin’s strengths according to his agent. Diamond added that he believes Tryamkin can be a top four defenceman in the NHL.
The fact that Tryamkin’s agent was pumping his tires shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it’s probably best to take his comments with a grain of salt given it’s in his best interest to hype up his client.
But what is interesting to note about Diamond’s comments is that the Tryamkin camp appears to be taking significant ownership regarding the previous fallout with the Canucks.
The 26-year-old is married and has a child now. He’s more mature, Diamond says, with a much bigger commitment to fitness.
“It’s a different person from the guy who left Vancouver four years ago,” said Diamond. “He’s made a commitment to being in shape, to being the best pro he can be, to having a good diet. He’s slimmed down significantly since then. He really is all in.”
Indeed, Tryamkin has lost weight. He’s officially listed on the KHL website at 115 kilograms (253 pounds), which is 12 pounds lighter than what he’s listed at on NHL.com.
Conditioning was an issue for Tryamkin during his time in Vancouver, but so was the coaching staff. Tryamkin was at odds with former assistant coach Doug Lidster more than head coach Willie Desjardins, Diamond revealed, but he’s partly to blame as well.
“The coaching staff by no means was the total problem. Nikita had his own issues, immaturity and figuring things out.”
And that right there may be the biggest sign of hope for the Canucks. There’s no question that Tryamkin has the size and skill to play at the NHL level. He skates well for a player of his size also.
But will Tryamkin be committed enough? Can he defend well enough against NHL forwards? Will he make accurate outlet passes under pressure, or will he slam the puck off the glass and out like he did time and time again during his 79-game stint in the NHL?
His agent is saying all the right things, adding that Tryamkin would arrive to Vancouver well ahead of training camp to work with Canucks staff so that he can “hit the ground running.”
There’s still no guarantees with Tryamkin, who is still very much a wild card in play for the Canucks. Diamond was also considerably more bullish on Tryamkin’s abilities than people that I have spoken to that have watched him play in recent years.
And like last year, GM Jim Benning doesn’t have a lot of money available under the salary cap due to previous spending sprees.
Is Tryamkin worth another shot? And at what cost?
Those are the potential multimillion-dollar questions Canucks management will need to answer in the coming weeks or months.