Mikhnov packs for Russia

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

It's not exactly Chris Pronger pulling up stakes, but another lanky Edmonton Oiler is leaving.

Alexei Mikhnov appears to have finished his cup of coffee in North America and is headed back to the Motherland.

The 6-foot-5 winger, the Oilers and Mikhnov's old Russian Elite League team, Yaroslavl, worked out a three-way agreement that had the 2000 first round pick packing his bags yesterday.

Mikhnov, who had six goals and 12 assists in 27 games with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins this season, will report immediately.

"It was a mutual agreement between all three parties," said Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson, adding Yaroslavl began making overtures for Mikhnov two or three months ago, about the time he was demoted to the AHL. "It's a deal that was best for Alex and, frankly, our team."

Mikhnov gets a raise, more familiar surroundings and better ice time, Yaroslavl gets its player back and the Oilers, it's assumed, pocket some money for letting him get away early (Mikhnov could have left in the summer and joined Yaroslavl anyway).

Since it's unlikely he was going to be recalled this season, it's not that earth shattering in the short term, but his future in North America is certainly now in doubt.

This isn't how the Oilers saw this shaking down when they finally convinced Mikhnov to come over. But the 24-year-old hasn't developed like they'd hoped, and wasn't as polished as they'd envisioned making the team right out of camp. He played just two games with the Oilers, going pointless in 13:43 of ice time.

"We were hoping he'd be in the NHL by now," admitted Howson. "But he's shown some spurts. I think he does have the potential to stay in the NHL."

The Oilers, who retain his NHL rights, will invite Mikhnov back to training camp again next fall, but you have to wonder if he'll make the journey again. He took forever to come over in the first place - waiting six years after Edmonton picked him 17th overall - and is heading back at the first sign of a speed bump in his development. There's every chance he's going to get comfortable and stay there for good.


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