OTTAWA - The Senators can finally close the door on Nikita Filatov.
After making a dash for cash to Russia midway through last season, the Senators winger signalled he has every intention to stay in his homeland after signing a two-year deal with the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev on Monday.
The Senators took a small gamble when they acquired the 21-year-old Filatov from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL draft last June for a third-round pick.
But there’s no surprise he almost certainly won’t be back with Ottawa next season.
While the Senators could retain Filatov’s rights for free agency by giving him a qualifying offer with a two-way deal in the $800,000 range as an RFA on June 25, the reality is it’s time to just close the book on this underachiever.
Hockey watchers have been waiting for Filatov, a first-round pick (No. 6 overall) of the Jackets in the 2008 draft, to fulfil his promise as a former top prospect with tremendous skills and develop into a breakout player in the NHL.
He was chosen ahead of the likes of Phoenix winger Mikkel Boedker (No. 8), Buffalo centre Cody Hodgson (No. 10 by Vancouver), Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson (No. 15) and New York Rangers defenceman Michael Del Zotto (No. 22).
After Filatov was buried in the minors by the Jackets, many felt the deal to send the winger to Ottawa last summer was going to kick-start his career — at a minimal price for Senators GM Bryan Murray.
But Filatov didn’t do a good job competing for ice time at camp in September and wasn’t able to earn the trust of coach Paul MacLean to give him a regular shift above the club’s fourth line.
If Filatov is going to play here, he needs to be on one of Ottawa’s top two lines. He certainly wasn’t better than any of the club’s top six forwards in camp.
Filatov suited up for only nine games with Ottawa last season. He had one assist and was sent to Binghamton before raising a stink that he wasn’t making enough money, then bolted for the KHL in early December.
At the time of Filatov’s departure, Murray said he fully intended to give the winger an offer in June. The mindset may have changed. Senators director of player personnel Pierre Dorion was non-committal in an interview last week.
“It’s something that we’ve discussed internally,” Dorion told the Team 1200. “It depends on the circumstances that (Filatov) would have to come over and not having probably a spot on our team, would not make sense for him.
“I’m not saying that he would have to play in the minors, but it’s something that we would have to look at the whole big picture with (Filatov), and then make a decision from there.”
Filatov has made the decision easy for the Senators. He probably looked at the depth chart and realized there isn’t a spot for him here. Prospects Mark Stone and Jakub Silfverberg are going to get chances in camp.
Murray told reporters at the end of the season he intends to try to sign a top-scoring unrestricted free agent winger to help boost the club’s offence. Filatov had that chance last season and couldn’t get it done.
Hopefully, we’ve seen and heard the last of Filatov.
Who knows? He might show up at a camp somewhere else in the NHL down the road.
Filatov was a reclamation project for the Senators. It didn’t work out. No big deal and, certainly, no big loss.