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Friedman: A former Bruin may be interested in an NHL return

Is the interest mutual, and could he stick this time?

NHL: Boston Bruins at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman’s weekly musing on all things NHL, is must-read content for hockey fans. (Also, thanks to Vegas, we get one extra thought this year.)

This week’s piece featured thoughts on the New York Rangers (I don’t understand how Alain Vigneault hasn’t been fired), the Ottawa Senators and old friend Peter Chiarelli.

Standard Canadian stuff, really.

However, there was one interesting nugget in there for Bruins fans, one that came completely out of left field.

From Friedman:

8. Finally from overseas, it is possible Alexander Khokhlachev makes a return to Boston next season. This is his second season in the KHL, but he liked playing for Bruce Cassidy at AHL Providence. May happen.

WHOA. Talk about a throwback name, eh?

Khokhlachev has been playing in the KHL since last fall, signing with SKA St. Petersburg after his entry-level deal expired. He’s since moved on to Spartak Moscow, where he is currently playing; his father was the GM for Spartak at one point, though I can’t seem to confirm that he’s still there.

Anyways...Koko. According to the KHL’s English website, he’s under contract with Spartak through the end of this season (April 2018).

He didn’t exactly light the KHL on fire last season, recording just five goals and six assists in 34 games (regular season and playoffs combined).

This year, however, he’s doing quite well. The winger has seven goals and 13 assists so far, good for 20 points in 24 games. He’s playing more than 18 minutes a game, so clearly his coach likes him.

As far as the report goes, it’s super random, but there’s gotta be something to it; Friedman is as plugged in as reporters get, and he’s not exactly struggling for material to put in his weekly piece.

If he’s floating it, he’s floating it for a reason.

So, why would Khokhlachev want to come back? As Friedman says, probably because of Bruce Cassidy (or more accurately, because he really, really didn’t like Claude Julien).

Cassidy took over as head coach in Providence in 2011, meaning he was the only head coach Khokhlachev had in the AHL. Khokhlachev, of course, was with the P-Bruins for at least part of four seasons.

While playing for Cassidy, Khokhlachev put up pretty impressive numbers. In 217 AHL games, the Russian put up 72G-118A-190PTS totals. NOT BAD.

Khokhlachev, of course, feels like he got a raw deal under previous head coach Claude Julien, and he’s probably not entirely wrong in that viewpoint.

However, he also didn’t do a ton to take his chances and run with them; it becomes a “chicken and egg” thing: did he not get chances because he didn’t earn them, or did he not produce because he didn’t get chances?

The other question, of course: would the Bruins want him back?

You can never say no to a high-upside winger, and since they retain his rights, the Bruins are in a position of strength to bargain with the kid.

However, with young forwards like Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik, etc. in front of him now, it might be hard for Khokhlachev to find space.

Another option: the Bruins could flip his rights to another team for a late-round pick, or sign him to a one-year deal and then flip him for a similar return.

Either way, something to keep an eye on as the year progresses.

What do you think? Has the Koko ship sailed, or would you be interested in giving him another look?

EDIT (10:13 PM): From Colin, here’s an interview with Khokhlachev from a Russian website, Sport Express. It’s from the end of August, but it features comments on Cassidy.

To sum it up:

  • Khokhlachev “doesn’t look back,” but does “continue to follow.”
  • He said he hopes Bruce Cassidy “does it all in Boston.”
  • He hasn’t closed the door on an NHL return, but is focused on Spartak for now. However: “In a year my contract expires, and who knows what the situation will be then. But I have a lot to prove this season.”