Grasping for a precedent for Kirill Petrov to be an Islander in 2010

Would Kirill Petrov be backchecking like that if he didn't think he might be back at the Coliseum in October? (Okay, so it was just a drill.)

Despite this month's feel-good vibes around the KHL-tied Kirill Petrov visiting these shores for Islanders development camp and his intention, last we heard, to attend training camp in September, I've always been guarded about whether that will translate into seeing him on John Tavares' wing anytime soon. You just never know with the NHL-KHL cold war.

The details are decidedly murky, but the main obstacle to Petrov becoming an Islander (or Sound Tiger) in 2010-11 is clear: He has a KHL contract that runs the next two seasons. A contract he'd have to buy out or otherwise "arrange" amicable separation from Kazan in order to wear the Orange & Blue.

Is that a step he's willing to take? (Apparently, via camp translator "The Other Kirill" Kabanov.) Is it one he can financially afford? Is there a precedent? The first two questions are the subject of constant hearsay and closed-door meetings we are not privy to. (The best info we have is Garth Snow telling 7th Woman Dee Karl in perfect Snowspeak: "Time will tell.") But the third question may have at least one highly conditional answer in the affirmative, one I missed amid the free agent frenzy in early July.

From the Montreal Gazette's legendary Pat Hickey earlier this month:

The Russian is coming, the Russian is coming

The Canadiens will hold another development camp next week and there will be one surprise guest - Russian Alexander Avtsin. It's becoming more difficult to lure Russians away from the homeland, but Avtsin's appearance offers some hope he will consider a career in North America. He was a fourth-round draft choice last June, but played for Moscow Dynamo in the KHL, collecting three goals and six assists in 30 games.

Simultaneously, at RussianProspects.com:

Alexander Avtsin and Dynamo Moscow decided to break the player's contract as he wants to try and get a spot with the Canadiens, as reported by Sport-Express.

Less than two weeks later, Avtsin is signed and delivered on an entry-level deal which CapGeek lists as a two-way contract ($67k AHL salary, $606k average NHL salary including a $270k signing bonus).

There is a big condition with this example, though: That Dynamo squad collapsed this spring, bringing about a merger with MVD Balashikha. The fallout included a lot of departures, with players like prodigal Red Wing Jiri Hudler being able to jump ship and return to the NHL. So perhaps Avtsin's departure from his KHL club was easier than that of your average bear.

That wrinkle aside, the question remains: Can Petrov, who played even less for his KHL team (8 GP, 0 Pts.) than Avtsin did (30 GP and 9 Pts. for Dynamo), make a similar move? Will the incentive on his end require more money from the Isles than what the Habs gave Avtsin on an entry-level deal? (I'd bet yes.) Is it a negative sign that the Habs were able to get their KHL-tied guy out of his deal (well, presumably they had zero part in that, {wink}) before developmental camp, and signed immediately after? In light of Avtsin's move and contract, should we be more hopeful or less hopeful for Petrov in 2010-11 than we were a month ago? And somewhat related, are we about to see more young Russians make like fellow Isles pick Kirill Kabanov and try to avoid KHL bonds so that they're free to pursue an NHL career when ready?

Finally, shouldn't we have bigger things to worry about? (Yes, surely. But it's July: The mind wanders...say, when does hockey start again?)

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