Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel refused to be drawn into the heart of the matter of forward Alexander Burmistrov not re-signing with the NHL team and electing to play in the KHL in the coming season.
Burmistrov, who was a restricted free agent after three NHL seasons, has signed with Ak-Bars Kazan in his hometown in Russia. In his two seasons in Winnipeg, he ran afoul of Noel on occasion, and was even sent to the pressbox for four games last winter.
After the KHL deal was announced, one of Burmistrov’s agents pointed the finger at Noel, saying he was responsible for a poor relationship with Burmistrov.
"I like Alexander Burmistrov," Noel said today at the MTS Iceplex after he watched Jets prospects go through another day of summer development camp. "I’ve said that for two years. I’ve liked the way he’s played. I would have liked to have seen him do some things differently that it would help him further his career.
"He’s a smart player. He remains our property. He’s elected to change locations to advance his career. I guess that’s what he believed but I really don’t have any comment on what somebody else says.
"If Alexander had problems with me, he’s never mentioned it to me. He’s played two years here, played a lot of minutes for us in a lot of different situations. But thats what he feels needs to get done, between him and the people he works with."
Noel wouldn’t speculate if the KHL would help Burmistrov’s game.
"I don’t know much about the KHL as far as the type of game," the coach said. "For him, he talked about getting his confidence and stuff like that. If that‘s what he feels, then he feels he needs to play, then he needs to make that decision. That’s hard for for me to sit and say the KHL will do this and won’t do this. Evander Kane’s a guy that didn’t have much success there but certainly has much success here. I think it works in different ways.
"Whether it works for Alexander, that’ll be determined by his play."
Noel was asked if he could see Burmistrov returning to the Jets in the future.
"Can’t say," he responded. "That’ll be decided by a lot of factors that I have no control over."
Noel also played it careful on the subject of three of the team’s important players -- RFA’s Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian and Bryan Little -- having filed for salary arbitration.
"I don’t get too involved in that stuff," Noel said. "I’m very confident in our people upstairs; that’s their job. I know players have filed for arbitration but that’s just part of the process. I’m confident we’ll get that stuff done."
The coach also said he hasn’t made up his mind about where new forwards Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik will fit into the Jets’ combinations.
"It’s hard to say," he said. "I know people would like to put names to lines and formations and all those things but these things work themselves out. I think you have to leave an open mind going into training camp and let the process play out."