Almost seven years after he was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks, the long and drawn-out Nikita Tryamkin saga has seemingly reached a conclusion.
The hulking Russian just re-signed with his hometown team in the KHL, Yekaterinburg, for the next two years. Tryamkin will be almost 29 years old and an unrestricted free agent at the end of his contract, meaning his time with the Canucks is almost certainly up.
For a guy who played only 78 games in a Canucks uniform, and none since 2017, Tryamkin generated more attention than he probably deserved over the years.
With his days as a Canuck seemingly over, it’s time to relive the complicated timeline of his career and his relationship with Vancouver.
Drafted by Canucks (June 2014)
Benning decided to draft Tryamkin, a 6-foot-8 defenceman, in the third round (66th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft.
“In the NHL he patterns himself like Zdeno Chara,” said Canucks scout Sergei Chibisov, who was translating for Tryamkin.
This wouldn’t be the first Chara comparison.
Tryamkin arrives with much fanfare, compares himself to Chara again (March 2016)
After a rocky draft-plus-one season in 2014-15, Tryamkin began to improve his point totals, and his all-around game. He signed a two-year deal with Vancouver worth $925,000 per season on March 8, 2016.
He arrived in Vancouver right after signing his deal, with Benning calling Tryamkin a “freak” because of his blend of size and speed.
The comparisons were obvious, but Tryamkin himself fed the hype by claiming that he wanted to be better than Chara.
“He would like to surpass and be better than Zdeno Chara,” Tryamkin’s interpreter Maxim Vayntraub told the media on March 10, 2016.
First point in first game (March 2016)
The hype train was already out of control before Tryamkin played an NHL game.
His interpreter told reporters that the social media buzz surrounding his presence was part of the reason why he wanted to come to North America. Then, in the first period of his first NHL game on March 16th, 2016, Tryamkin registered his first point.
Showing off muscle (April 2016)
Tryamkin flashed his strength by dropping a pair of Anaheim Ducks on April 1, 2016.
First NHL goal (April 2016)
While the scouting reports talked about Tryamkin’s booming shot, that wasn’t evident during his first career NHL goal on April 7, 2016.
Regardless, he snapped a wrist shot home for his first tally in the NHL, during his 12th career game.
Shows up to training camp out of shape (Sep. 2016)
So much for building on his 13-game NHL audition.
Tryamkin reportedly showed up to training camp for the 2016-17 season out of shape, which didn’t endear himself to head coach Willie Desjardins.
Refuses AHL assignment (Oct. 2016)
Although Benning and Desjardins wanted to send Tryamkin to the Utica Comets, the defender flexed a European out-clause in his contract. It basically meant he could return to Russia if the Canucks tried to send him to the AHL.
So the team reluctantly kept Tryamkin in Vancouver. He would sit out the first 10 games of the regular season before making his debut on November 3, 2016 against the Ottawa Senators, a game in which he had his first career NHL fight.
Flattening Benn, then fighting him (March 2017)
During his second career NHL fight, Tryamkin took on Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn in a heavyweight tilt.
Bolting for Russia (April 2017)
After making some progress during his first full NHL season, most expected that Tryamkin would return to the Canucks in 2017-18.
However, Tryamkin shocked Canucks fans by returning to his hometown KHL team on a three-year deal.
A lack of playing time was cited as the primary reason for his departure.
Claims Vancouver “stinks like weed” (Sep. 2017)
Mere months after his departure, Tryamkin caused a stink in Vancouver after an interview with Russian hockey writer Igor Eronko.
The defenceman mentioned that Vancouver “stinks like weed.” In fairness, Eronko said that the interview (which was conducted in Russian) was not meant to have negative connotations.
Tryamkin meant it was a big surprise for him that smoking weed is so OK & popular in Vancouver. He actually liked the city and the fans
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) September 25, 2017
Career year in the KHL (2017-18)
Tryamkin showed a lot of promise in his return to the KHL in 2017-18.
The then 23-year-old posted nine goals and 25 points in 51 games. Those were career high totals for him, and that performance earned him a nod on KHL’s First All-Star Team.
“Open to a return” to Canucks (June 2018)
After a career year, Tryamkin continued to tell reporters that he was interested in returning to the Canucks.
“Would I like to come back? Why not,” Tryamkin told Daily Hive about his future plans, following an appearance at the IIHF World Championships. “It depends on many factors.”
Stripped of captaincy after 21 games (2018-19)
Tryamkin was named captain of Yekateringberg at the beginning of the 2018-19 season. The experience wasn’t what he expected, as he was stripped of the captaincy after just 21 games.
It was a bizarre set of circumstances. His team won a remarkable 20 of their first 21 games that season. The newly-named captain was not a large part of that though, as he had three points in 17 games. He also sat as a healthy scratch in four of those games.
Canucks fans beg for his return (May 2019)
Despite a rough year in the KHL, Canucks fans continued to flood Tryamkin’s social media feeds, clamouring for his return.
Benning says he wants him back (June 2019)
A year before the end of his KHL contract, Benning mentioned to reporters that he was interested in bringing back Tryamkin.
Pandemic complicating matters (July 2020)
Would the Tryamkin saga have ended differently if it wasn’t for the COVID-19 pandemic?
In the summer of 2020, the defender reportedly said Vancouver was his first option. However, KHL training camps for the 2020-21 season were opening up before the NHL bubble playoff even began.
So, on July 16, 2020, Tryamkin signed a one-year deal to stay in Russia, delaying a potential return to the NHL.
Tryamkin saga finally ends (May 2021)
Despite all the talk from Tryamkin’s agent about how the “slimmed down” defenceman wanted to return to the NHL, he opted to stay in the KHL.
His multi-year deal to remain in Yekateringberg probably spells the end of this saga, but the past few years have taught us that we can’t ever completely rule out a Tryamkin-related story in the near future.