The mystery as to why the Buffalo Sabres have kept defenceman Nikita Zadorov in the press-box as a healthy scratch for the first 6 games instead of sending him back down to junior has finally been solved. For right now, keeping Zadorov as a scratch in the press box is their only way to insure he stays in North America this season. Let me explain.
According to a report from Bill Hoppe, if Nikita Zadorov does not stick with the Buffalo Sabres this season he has to go to the KHL to join St. Petersburg. Since he’s a European player and they own his rights, he can not return to London without a release from his Russian club. St. Petersburg, has already made it clear that they do not plan on giving Zadorov a release for the second season to go back and play in London.
So the Buffalo Sabres and Nikita Zadorov are stuck in limbo. The team doesn’t believe the young defenceman is quite ready for full -time NHL play, but if they release him, they loose control of his development while he goes to the KHL.
Now of course one could argue that the KHL is best for his development at this point over the OHL, given the fact he’ll be playing against men in a tougher league, it’s still not a great situation. Should he go over to Russia and be offered a lot of money or coaxed into staying, the Sabres may never see the defenceman again. Plus if they need to call him up it’s a pain in the butt to do so.
While the Sabres may not like it, they may have no other option than to transfer Zadorov to the KHL. Without the release he can’t play in the OHL and because he’s underage and owned by a Russian club, the AHL is not an option. It’s a similar situation to the one the Toronto Maple Leafs faced with William Nylander and the European league.
Perhaps it’s time the NHL changes their rules for developing players as more and more are getting caught up in the CHL or Russian agreements which slows down their career development.