If a Kontinental Hockey League team in Russia is trying to poach Alex Burmistrov from the Winnipeg Jets, they might want to begin by touching base with two key characters in the story: Burmistrov and/or his agent Mark Gandler.
The ‘Cult of Hockey’ blog on The Edmonton Journal website reported that KHL team Ak Bars Kazan has offered contracts to Burmistrov and Columbus Blue Jackets’ forward Maxim Mayorov.
But Gandler vehemently denied the story when reached by The Free Press Monday.
"Alex Burmistrov is under contract to the Winnipeg Jets," said Gandler. "Neither Alex or I heard from that team, so that’s the end of that story."
Asked how this report may have begun circulating, Gandler said: "I’ll tell you how this starts: they print something in the Russian media and somebody from Edmonton, instead of picking up the phone and checking on the story, copies it as gospel."
When asked to confirm that Burmistrov was planning on returning to the Jets and honouring his deal with the team – he has one year remaining on his $1.5 million entry-level contract – Gandler added: "That is correct. End of story."
Burmistrov, 20, is coming off a career year in which he scored 13 goals and added 15 assists.
The NHL and KHL agreed to honour each league’s contracts in 2008, but the agreement is not binding and the Russian league is always searching for star power, particularly after both Jaromir Jagr and Alex Radulov returned to the NHL this season.
NHL deputy commissioner did comment on the matter via an e-mail to The Free Press:
"There is no Player Transfer Agreement with the Russians. But we do have an agreement to respect each other's contracts. This should not be permitted to happen. We have a decent working relationship with the Russians now and if this was likely to happen, there is a good chance the League could successfully intervene by approaching the KHL."
It’s easy to see how some might try to connect the dots on the Ak Bars Kazan attraction to Burmistrov: Kazan is his hometown and he appeared in 34 games with the club’s second-division squad and played one game with the KHL team in 2008-09 before gaining his release to join the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League.
Burmistrov has played two seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers/Jets organization, tallying 19 goals and adding 29 assists in 150 games. He will be part of Team Russia the IIHF World Hockey Championships, which begin this week in Finland and Sweden.