Like a classic Russian novel or the career of wrestling legend Nikolai Volkoff, the saga of Islanders' 2008 draft pick Kirill Petrov was full of possibilities, epic in scale and ultimately a little sad in the end.
Petrov was assigned to Ak-Bars Kazan of the KHL by the Islanders today, an unusual move befitting the unusual time he spent with the organization. He was a longshot to even come to North America when he was drafted thanks to an already signed contract and was more-or-less given up on until a surprise signing this last off-season.
A large human (6'-3", 230-plus pounds), who played a solid defensive-oriented game against pros for the last several seasons, Petrov seemed like the kind of secret weapon the Islanders had cannily kept stashed until the time was right, like SPECTRE waiting to unleash Red Grant on James Bond. Adding a free, young, tantalizingly-skilled "veteran" to an already talented roster looked like a draft risk that was finally paying off.
But the story didn't play out like that. Petrov turned some heads at training camp by throwing his body around, but was assigned to Bridgeport before the start of the season. He never acclimated to the AHL - in part because of the culture and language differences - and played a lackluster game until suffering a broken foot. He returned to the line-up this week, but clearly it was too late.
In a Twitter Q&A this week, Arthur Staple intimated that Petrov may have been a Plan B (or C or D) for the Islanders, who were looking to trade Michael Grabner and sign veteran forward Steve Bernier this summer. They did both, giving Petrov no room to play. Hedging your bets isn't a bad idea, but doing it with a player who had the kind of upside and story that Petrov has seems a little cold. Coupled with the underwhelming return for Grabner and the Steve Bernierness of Steve Bernier and it's even more of a bummer.
Petrov might not have been the Islanders' missing championship piece but now we'll never know, which means he might as well have been.
Naturally, this is all happening at a time when the Islanders literally can't buy a goal, making everyone extra pissed off. It's the most wonderful time of the year...
Petrov was on a one-year ELC with the team and remains an RFA, according to General Fanager. Eyes on the Prize editor and all around smart guy Marc Dumont says that the lack of a transfer agreement between the leagues means the Islanders will continue to hold his rights.
I wouldn't hold my breath over seeing him any time soon.