By Geneen Pipher, Hockey VIPs Magazine
October 1, 2015
Atlanta Thrashers fans waited for him for years. Every summer, it seemed there was a new rumor that the team would finally get Russian defenseman Ilya Nikulin to venture west. And every year, the season started without seeing hide nor hair of the coveted Kontinental Hockey League blueliner. The Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise still owns the rights to Nikulin and despite scorching rumors he might be joining his good buddy Alexander Ovechkin in Washington, he was apparently doing his yearly dance with the Thrasher/Jets organization.
Will-he-or-won’t-he? Fans wanted to know.
Apparently he won’t.
According to reports in the Russian media, Nikulin spent much of the off-season negotiating with the Jets but in the end the two sides could not reach a satisfactory agreement.
“There’s nothing to hide,” the 33-year-old D-man said in an interview with R-sport. “My rights belonged — and belong –to Winnipeg and we didn’t find a compromise with them.”
Instead, the 2000 NHL draftee, who became a free agent when his contact expired with Ak Bars Kazan, signed a deal with Dynamo Moscow.
“We didn’t find a compromise … and there was an offer [from Dynamo], there were long negotiations, but I agreed without thinking twice,” Nikulin said.
The move brings Nikulin back home in a way — he learned his craft in the hockey school Dynamo, playing seven years in their system before beginning his long stint with Ak Bars.
He said it wasn’t a choice between Winnipeg and Moscow — and that there wasn’t a crucial need to bolt from Russia to the NHL.
“I did not have a principled position that I have to go somewhere,” he said. “This is more exaggerated in the press, and I have nothing to announce.
“Now I [have] flipped the page, everything is over,” he said of his move from Ak Bars and his signing with Dynamo. “[I moved on to] a new challenge and now think only of Dynamo.”
In 366 KHL games, he has scored 59 goals and 161 assists for 220 points. He is a six-time KHL All Star and has won gold in three IIHF World Championship tournaments.
Photograph: Dynamo Moscow
Translation: Tatiana Markina