A relatively busy day in the realm of Russian hockey this Monday afternoon when it comes to defensemen as newsworthy headlines have appeared throughout today’s blogosphere. The biggest is of former NHL player Darius Kasparaitis retiring from his KHL club SKA St. Petersburg in order to become an assistant coach with the team he spent his last playing days with.
A natiive of Elektrenai, Lithuania, Kaspar was one of two Lithuanians to play in the NHL (the other being Danius Zubrus of the New Jersey Devils) where in 863 games he collected over 1300 penalty minutes. Known for his hard nosed style and his Evgeni Plushenko like looks the defensemen spent his career with the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers.
Despite being born in Lithuania, Kaspar suited up for the Russian Men’s Team from 1996-2006 appearing in three Olympics. While in Pittsburgh, Kasparaitis scored the biggest goal of his career against the Buffalo Sabres in game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals as well as having his own pickles, rightfully named Kasparaitis Krunchers.
Meanwhile, on the NHL front, the Penguins are said to be in serious contract talks between Sergei Gonchar before he becomes eligable for free agency on July 1st. The 36-year-old Chelyabinsk native is seeking a big contract as he was the top defensemen for the team last year despite giving up goals that look like this. Nearing his 1000th career game in the NHL, Gonchar has 684 points and would leave a big hole in the Pens’ defense should he choose to opt for the free agency waters.
Elsewhere, it appears that Anton Volchenkov’s days with the Ottawa Senators are over as he will test free agency unless the team trades his rights away before July 1st. GM Bryan Murray confirmed the 28-year-old will not resign with the only NHL club he has known. Rumors throughout the off-season have pointed him towards Washington where he could link up with fellow countrymen Alexander Ovechkin, Semyon Varlamov, and Alexander Semin.