It was an interesting summer day for the Winnipeg Jets, as the long-standing rumours of Alex Burmistrov’s pending departure to the Kontinental Hockey League finally became a reality.
Burmistrov inked a two-year deal with his hometown team, Ak-Bars Kazan and there are reports the contract is worth in excess of $2 million per season, which represents a healthy raise from what he would have made as a member of the Jets this year, had he signed the qualifying offer from the Jets.
The value of Burmistrov — who had 23 goals and 58 points in 194 NHL games — to the Jets has been debated extensively and this is my take on that situation:
The 21-year-old Russian forward showed glimpses, but after three seasons in the NHL, he still wasn’t sure what role he was going to play in the NHL.
Burmistrov plays with an edge for a smaller player, is an excellent penalty killer and was usually an effective checker, but the offensive side of his game — despite his talent — never really took hold, other than a stretch during the first month of the Jets’ return when he was clearly at the top of his game
From that point on, his production dipped badly, he was demoted to the third and fourth lines and while it’s true he didn’t get a lot of Top-6 minutes (other than at the end of 2011-12, where he managed only two assists during the final 16 games), Burmistrov did little to show that he deserved to play in the Top-6.
There was friction between Burmistrov and Jets head coach Claude Noel, which resulted in a four-game vacation as a healthy scratch late in the season.
When reporters surrounded his locker on the morning he was scheduled to return to the lineup, Burmistrov naturally was asked if he planned to adjust his style of play to conform to the north-south style Noel was looking for?
“I’m not going to change,” was the part of response that struck me.
Even if that’s what Burmistrov was thinking, he should have never said it out loud.
For those who lay the blame solely at the feet of Noel, being hard-headed as a young player is not going to help you solve a problem with the bench boss.
That’s my free advice for the day.
Make no mistake, the head coach needs to take some responsibility for this marriage not working out but the player can’t be absolved of blame either. In fact, from where I sit, Burmistrov should take the brunt of it.
While there are plenty of folks on Twitter and other mediums expressing their disappointment in GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s asset management, I’ll offer another word of caution:
If Burmistrov is such a lock to deserve Top-6 minutes in the NHL, why did no other team making a reasonable enough offer to take him off the Jets’ hands.
There’s little doubt the Jets were looking to move Burmistrov, but they weren’t going to give the 8th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft away either.
Since Burmistrov’s trade value was low, the Jets could actually benefit from him playing well in Russia, where he might actually restore his confidence.
Even though the Jets issued a press release from Cheveldayoff trumpeting Burmistrov as a talented player they will keep their eye on as they monitor his progress and development, I don’t see a reunion at the end of this contract.
However, don’t be surprised if Burmistrov is traded at some point during the next few seasons and makes a return to the NHL at some point — just not with the Jets.
While Burmistrov is taking his services elsewhere, RW Devin Setoguchi spoke to reporters on a conference call this afternoon and sounded “excited” to be joining the Jets.
Setoguchi is a sound addition and I see him as a great fit with Evander Kane, a subject I asked him about for my story.
Something I learned from the call was that Setoguchi actually played with Jets C Bryan Little on Team Canada at the Under-18 championship one year.
He brings plenty of playoff experience (53 games) and has high hopes for helping the Jets take the next step into the post-season.
Setoguchi made it clear that he’d have plenty of motivation this season and it has nothing to do with the fact he’s going into a contract year. He’s also excited about going head-to-head with his former team, the Minnesota Wild, frequently this season as he was traded within the division.
The 26-year-old has no issue with the scrutiny that comes with playing in a Canadian market.
“But that is why we play, we play for that thrill, to be a clutch player, a pressure player,” said Setoguchi.
Setoguchi also let it be known that he likes to keep things loose in the dressing room, when the situation calls for it.
Be sure to check out my story on Setoguchi at www.winnipegsun.com or pick up the print edition.
Colleague Paul Friesen handled the column on Burmistrov’s departure.