Canadiens General manager Pierre Gauthier is in Slovakia to watch Canada play Russia tomorrow (Thursday) in the World Hockey Championship quarterfinal round.  He has two Russian defensive prospects in the game.  His attention will focused on Alexei Yemelin, who is a free agent in the KHL and is reportedly finally ready to sign an NHL contract.  (Bob McKenzie of TSN reports the deal has already been signed.  If so, it cannot be announced under IIHF rules until the World Tournament ends on Sunday.)

We went through the nuts and bolts of what it would take to sign the 25 year old  in a post last week.  (You can read it here)  (Exerpts Below)

If, as many scouts believe, Yemelin is NHL-ready, it probably will change Gauthier’s thinking when it comes to dealing with his six  unrestricted free agent defensemen.   Some have described him as a Josh Gorges stay-at-home type with a mean streak.  His tendency to take penalties at the wrong time will probably be the main issue for Jacques Martin and his coaching staff.

Under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, the most the Canadiens can pay Yemelin is 1.75 million dollars including bonuses.  However, he becomes eligible for salary arbitration next year.

To clear up a discrepancy.   He was drafted in 2004 as Alexei Emelin.  He is now Alexei Yemelin.  It comes from the often screwed-up phonetic pronunciation transfer from the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, which has 33 letters and sounds to 26- letter English.  The Canadiens, in their media guide this year,  simply corrected a poor translation.

22-Konstantin Korneyev

The other Canadiens draft pick playing for Russia in his fourth world championship is Konstantin Korneev (alternately spelled “Korneyev” to take care of the same “ye” Russian vowel that affects the Yemelin pronunciation).  He was selected in the ninth round of the 2002 draft and seems content to remain with CSKA in Moscow.  Korneev, despite being smaller at 5’11”, may be an even better prospect but has shown absolutely no inclination to transfer his talents to North America.  Because he was drafted before 2005 (he was drafted 275th overall in 2002), under the joint IIHF/NHL agreement, the Canadiens can retain his draft rights until he reaches the age of 31.   Korneyev turns 26 June 5th..

Exerpted From Our May 8 Posting

This year Yemelin, noted as a shutdown defenseman, added offense to his game (11 goals, 15 assists, plus-16).  He’s physically mature.  On their website, Ak-Bars lists him at 6’1½” and 222 pounds. (187cm-101kg)   Yemelin is an above average skater with a good shot.  He’s tough, witness his 117 penalty minutes this year, fourth highest total in the KHL..  It’s those penalties that might cause the Canadiens to pause.  After two games at the current World Championship in Slovakia, Yemelin has 27 penalty minutes.  Twenty-five of them came off a 5 minute boarding penalty and game misconduct (which is listed as 20 minutes) in the 6-4 win over  Slovenia

……. So…  assuming the Canadiens are interested, (and I can’t imagine they’re not)  do they have any chance of signing him out from under the KHL?  Last I heard, the KHL’s salary cap was the Russian equivalent of 35 million dollars, most wages free of income tax.  The team (Ak-Bars Kazan) has some expensive forwards.  How much they want to devote to shutdown defenseman is a question?  By the same token the Canadiens are limited by the NHL’s CBA.  As an entry-level player the maximum contract they can give Yemelin is 925 thousand dollars.  They can also offer a maximum of 825 thousand in what are called Schedule “A” bonuses.  That’s a total of 17.5 million dollars, co-inidentally the exact contract the Philadelphia Flyers used to lure goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from Russia last year.  Here’s where it’s interesting.  Bobrovsky, at age 22, was forced to sign a three year entry level deal.   Because he’s 25, Yemelin will be limited to entry level money for just one year.   After that he’s a restricted free agent.