Lockout no lockout, Joffrey Lupul promised he would be playing professional hockey this season, and in about a week he will make good on his word.
The Toronto Maple Leafs forward, coming off a breakout year that saw him score 25 goals in 66 games and earn an invite to his first all-star game, has reportedly signed with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Lupul told Hockey Central’s Daren Millard of his intent to sign with the club on Monday night, and on Tuesday, The Fourth Period tweeted that it was a done deal.
“Lupul, 29, is expected to head to Russia next weekend, but could leave sooner if travel availability blocked by Hurricane Sandy opens up,” TheFourthPeriod.com reported.
Lupul will join Leafs teammates Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin in the KHL. Toronto’s Clarke MacArthur and Cody Franson have also found work in Europe.
Through Twitter and an article he wrote for AskMen.com, Lupul has been vocal in his frustration with the NHL lockout, the second of his career.
“I’ll be playing hockey somewhere this year,” Lupul told Sportsnet.ca back on Sept. 10. “I’ve thought a little bit about it, and made some calls to teams in Europe, and there’s definitely some options for me to go play there. I’m taking it week by week right now, but I trained hard all summer and I’m ready to play.”I want to play in Toronto,” he said last month. “This is where everyone wants to play, in the NHL. But on the other hand, I lost one year of my career to a lockout already. It would be really tough to sit out a second year of my career to a second owners’ lockout.”
The KHL’s Yekaterinburg finished 22nd overall last season and is off to a dismal start this year. The club has only four wins and 17 losses, putting them in last place in the 26-team league.