As is being reported by various media outlets including Sports.ru journalist Igor Eronko, the suspicions of most fans has been confirmed: Winnipeg Jets' forward Alexander Burmistrov has signed a two-year contract with his hometown club Ak-Bars Kazan in the Kontinental Hockey League.
There has been plenty of speculation and unsourced rumours of dislike and disdain between coach Claude Noel and Alex over the past year; however, we will only speak of the facts at hand.
The Jets extended Burmistrov a qualifying last Tuesday, merely hour before the qualifying deadline. What this means going forward is Winnipeg will retain Burmistrov's NHL rights until he turns 27 years old or he returns to the NHL and the Jets decide to trade or waive those rights. If Burmistrov were to return, he would not be subjected to waivers (see Alexander Radulov or Arturs Kulda) although they will have to keep him on a protected list.
Burmistrov had previously requested to TNSE management that he play in the KHL during the lockout but instead followed marching orders to play for a struggling St. John's IceCaps -- Winnipeg's AHL affiliate. The KHL has the resources to offer far more financial security than the cash-strapped Jets and in addition to that, all KHL salary earned by Burmistrov is tax free.
Claude Noel has been candid on his feeling toward Burmistrov, stating that he is a good kid who works and practices hard, but plays more of an East/West than he would like in his game. Still, Noel valued Burmistrov's contributions at the centre position.
Burmistrov began the lockout-shortened season on the third line and was moved up briefly to the second line during Olli Jokinen's short demotion. He was later benched for four games, returning on the fourth line before finishing the season on the on the third line from whence he started. Burmistrov scored at impressive rates while a member of Winnipeg's top six (approximately 1.86 points every 60 mins when with any of Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little or Blake Wheeler, which is higher than Little's or Ladd's 2011-12 point scoring average) but was not able to create much offense from a defensive role alongside Chris Thorburn, James Wright, Eric Tangradi, Mike Santorelli or Patrice Cormier.
His role continuously changed throughout the season; he ended the season averaging the seventh most difficult quality of competition, sixth in percentage of offensive zone starts, seventh in 5v5 TOI and seventh in 5v4 TOI. Burmistrov's underlying numbers pointed towards him tilting the ice severely in favour of the Jets as they had their best shot attempts +/- when either he or captain Ladd were on the ice.
Evander Kane had great success when paired with Burmistrov, only registering better shot attempts +/- when with Kyle Wellwood and goal +/- with Bryan Little (who was negative in shot attempts +/- when with Kane). Statistically, this leaves the Jets with only six true top-nine players either under contract or tendered, although Jokinen's poor percentages are likely to bounce back, likely bringing that number to seven. Although free agency and opportunities to trade are far from over, this leaves the door wide open for the now-waiver-susceptable Eric O`Dell and rookie Mark Scheifele.
Currently out chancing opponents is the strongest statistic we have that correlates to wins and getting into the playoffs; with the Jets losing their second and third most effective players in that regards with Burmistrov and Wellwood, as well as tough minute defenseman Ron Hainsey, it is highly possible the Jets have taken a step back this offseason.
This may not have been the last time we see Burmistrov either in the NHL or the polar blue, although neither are a guarantee.
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