Even though Nikita Filatov is heading back to Russia, Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray says he has no regrets about taking a chance on the enigmatic Russian forward this summer.
Murray even hinted that Filatov may still be in the club’s plans going forward.
“I think it was a no-lose situation. We had a lot of picks, so it was a good gamble – and the gamble’s not over,” Murray told reporters on Monday. “It’s like when you make a trade and you have to wait a couple of years for the guy to emerge to be what you think he’s going to be. It’s the same circumstance here.”
The club announced on Monday that they have loaned Filatov to the CSKA Moscow club in the KHL for the remainder of this season. The Senators also could have opted to send Filatov back down their AHL affiliate in Binghamton, but instead decided to allow him to return to Russia – which was his preference.
“He wants to go back rather than play in the minors. And I totally understand that’s a financial thing for him and his family and that’s why I’m letting it happen,” explained Murray.
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Filatov’s entry-level contract in the NHL will expire next summer, making him a restricted free agent. But Murray indicated that the club could keep Filatov next summer by making him a qualifying offer – provided Filatov shows a desire to return.
“I’ve had a number of players go back to Europe to play and come back and be pretty good players in this league. Hopefully, he’ll be one of them.”
“Obviously, we retain his rights and we’ll see what happens in the future,” added Murray. “I’ve spent the last three days talking to him and he just wants to be a player. He wants to have a chance to come back and be a player in the National Hockey League at some point. If he wants to be a player in the NHL – and he spends some time in physical development – he can be a player.”
The Senators sent a third-round draft pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets on draft day in exchange for Filatov, who had been labeled an underachiever. But he never produced offensively in Ottawa, collecting just a single assist in nine games. He was a healthy scratch in each of the last five games – but Paul MacLean believes he was given an adequate amount of time to prove he belonged.
“He was in the lineup lots and got to play with our best players. The dimension he brought to our team was skill and creating offense – and that didn’t happen often enough,” explained MacLean. “He had six exhibition games and he played at the start of the year and he played significant minutes in a top-six role and on the power play. As it went on, he went on the fourth line at six or seven minutes as well. From my point of view, the dimension that he brought to the team – we didn’t get.”
Both Murray and MacLean were quick to point out there was never a personality conflict with Filatov – who clashed with his former bosses in Columbus. The club would just like to see a better work ethic from Filatov, but shot down any reports of the forward being a negative presence inside the locker room.
“He cares a lot. Whoever said that about him, that he doesn’t do rebounds and all of those mocking things are totally wrong with this guy,” said Murray.