We told you on Sunday afternoon that defenceman Mark Flood was off to the Kontinental Hockey League to play for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
On Monday, we were able to track down Flood and discuss the move with him.
After playing 33 games with the Jets last season and putting up three goals and seven points, Flood was an unrestricted free agent and looking for a one-way contract.
While talks were held with the Jets and several other NHL teams, a one-way deal wasn’t offered, so Flood decided to look at what else might actually be out there for him.
Flood admits it was a bit disappointing he wasn’t able to secure an NHL deal after an encouraging showing last season.
Having said that, he realizes the Jets already had seven guys on one-way contracts and Derek Meech on a two-way deal.
“Yeah, no question it’s frustrating,” said Flood. “I didn’t want to go anywhere else other than Winnipeg. If the right deal had some along and another opportunity presented itself, that’s different. I love Winnipeg and I didn’t want to leave here.
“For me, as much as I played last year, I’ve never played that much (in the NHL) before. It’s frustrating, but I understand it’s business and the direction (the Jets) wanted to go. I’m okay with that.”
Not only was Flood okay with it, he went out of his way to thank the True North organization and assistant GM Craig Heisinger in particular.
“They’re the ones who gave me an opportunity,” said Flood, who joined the Manitoba Moose in 2010-11 as a free agent and put up 11 goals and 40 points in 63 games as he was named Top Defenceman of the team. “(Heisinger) stuck his neck out for me and I owe a lot to him and the whole organization for sure.”
That eventually led him to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the team involved in the brutal plane crash last fall that claimed the lives of more than 40 people, including head coach Brad McCrimmon.
As you might expect, Flood wasn’t “too keen” on joining the franchise initially, but several discussions led him to believe that it might actually be a good fit for him.
“Anytime you hear the name of the team, (the tragedy) is what people automatically think of and I was the same way,” said Flood, who was actually on the Albany River Rats bus that crashed in Massachusetts in February of 2009 and managed to escape any serious injuries.. “For sure, I was a little bit weary but after speaking with a few people and learning about the organization, it’s one of the more respected organizations in the KHL.
“They’ve got a new plane and they’ll probably go overboard the other way after what happened last year, as safety and accommodating players, making them feel comfortable with everything.”
One of the biggest factors in joining Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is head coach Tom Rowe, who was the bench boss with the River Rats of the AHL for parts of two seasons when Flood played there.
“Anytime you go over to Europe — and obviously I haven’t been there — but having an English coach and especially someone who has coached you before, having him in my corner definitely helped my decision,” said Flood. “Having him there made me feel more at ease, for sure.”
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is returning to the KHL after a one-year absence and Flood is expecting to be part of a special season.
“Absolutely, they’ve had some good players in the past and after the accident, I know they’ll want to rejuvenate the city and the fans and all of that,” said Flood. “It will be different. There will be tributes in the different cities we go to and they’ll kind of mourn the loss of the organization last year. That will be part of the experience that is something that will be unique.”
Some of Flood’s new teammates with NHL ties include former Moose goalie Curtis Sanford, defenceman Sami Lepisto and forward Niklas Hagman.
At 27 years of age, Flood made it clear he’s not giving up the NHL dream by going overseas.
“I thought I would try it out for a year and if it does, it does. If not, we’ll try and do something else,” said Flood. “I still want to play in the NHL, I don’t know if it will happen. Like I said, I’ll give it a shot and see what happens. Hopefully, it works out.”
In fact, a strong season might help him secure a one-way deal next summer — maybe even with the Jets, who have a few blue-liners whose contracts expire at the end of 2012-13.
Flood became the second member of the Jets who was a UFA to bolt to the KHL, with forward Tim Stapleton being the other.