Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Disgruntled Burmistrov stomps off to Kazan

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The Winnipeg Jets won't have Alex Burmistrov around to underperform anymore.

The disgruntled Jets forward has signed a two-year contract with the KHL's Ak Bars Kazan, a franchise the 21-year-old played for briefly in 2008-09 and which is based in his hometown of Kazan.

The Jets confirmed Burmistrov's signing -- which was first reported on Twitter Monday morning by a Russian hockey reporter named Igor Eronko -- with a terse two-paragraph statement from GM Kevin Cheveldayoff:

"Through our conversations and correspondence with Alex and his agent, it became apparent Alex had a desire to continue his development as a young player in the KHL. He remains a very talented player within the Jets organization and we will continue to monitor his progress and development going forward."

The Jets still retain Burmistrov's NHL rights as a restricted free agent and will continue to do so until the 21-year-old turns 27.

Burmistrov's agent, Mark Gandler, did not respond to a request for confirmation on Monday, but the official website of the Ak Bars team had a post up on Monday confirming the club had signed Burmistrov to a two-year deal.

The signing comes just two months after Gandler told Free Press columnist Gary Lawless his client wasn't interested in playing in the KHL.

"The only question I'm going to answer is to say that Alex is not going to sign in the KHL," Gandler said at the time.

Cheveldayoff seemed resigned during last month's NHL draft to the possibility he was going to lose Burmistrov to the KHL.

"There's lots of rumours out there. I can't get into it too, too much," Cheveldayoff told reporters. "I guess if it's a choice of his where he does want to go play in Russia, I can't compete with that. We'll continue to negotiate and continue to see how it goes from that point on."

Burmistrov was a first-round (eighth overall) draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010. He scored six goals and added 14 assists in 74 games with the Thrashers during his rookie 2010-11 season.

Burmistrov's offensive output improved marginally during the franchise's first season in Winnipeg -- he scored 13 goals and added 15 assists in 76 games for the Jets in 2011-12.

But his numbers fell off markedly last season, when Burmistrov scored just four goals and added six assists in 44 games with the Jets. Things bottomed out in March when he was a healthy scratch for four consecutive games, a low-point in his often turbulent relationship with Jets head coach Claude Noel.

The Jets attempted to trade Burmistrov prior to last season's trading deadline but were never able to put together an agreeable deal.

Burmistrov was earning a reported $1.5 million per year and is one of 13 players on the Jets restricted free agent list.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2013 C1

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Updated on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 7:26 AM CDT: changes headline, adds sidebar, replaces photo

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