MAGNITOGORSK, Russia, November 2 (R-Sport) - NHL players will have to join weak KHL teams to get some practice during the lockout, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin told R-Sport on Friday.
Kulemin, who returned to Metallurg Magnitogorsk in September, said that most strong KHL teams have already filled up the quota of three NHL lockout signings and late arrivals must settle for smaller teams.
“Guys need to play somewhere, so the status of the team is not so important,” Kulemin said.
“However, it’s not important. Such players as Joffrey Lupul can help both leaders, and outsiders.”
Russians and some other Europeans flocked to sign lockout contracts with KHL teams in the first month of the lockout, but the number of Americans and Canadians has since gradually increased, with Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane a notable lockout signing for Dynamo Minsk last month.
“The lockout is lingering on and the guys need to play,” Kulemin said. “Nobody wants to sit without anything to do.”
Kulemin’s Toronto teammate Joffrey Lupul has reportedly signed for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, the team with the worst record this season, four wins in 22 games.
The 29-year-old wing does not seem to meet criteria imposed by KHL on the NHLers arriving in the league for the lockout period and his move has yet to be confirmed by the league.
Kulemin has already made 17 KHL appearances, scoring 11 points.