|Nikita Filatov, who couldn't find his stride with the Ottawa Senators, has been loaned to Central Red Army of the Kontinental Hockey League for the remainder of the season (Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
Nikita Filatov is gone but not forgotten.
Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray agreed today to allow the Russian winger to return home for the rest of the season, where he'll play for CSKA Moscow (Central Red Army) in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Obtained from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for a third-round pick, the 21-year-old Filatov arrived in Ottawa hoping to rejuvenate his still-young career. The Senators, in turn, saw a player with the skill level and creativity with the potential to become a top-six winger. Though it didn't pan out that way — Filatov recorded one assist in nine game with the Senators — didn't deem the experiment as a failure in Murray's eyes.
"It was a no-lose situation," Murray told reporters earlier today in evaluating the deal to obtain the No. 6 overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. "We had a lot of picks. It was a good gamble and the gamble's not over. It's like when you make a trade and you have to wait a couple of years for the guy to emerge into what you think he's going to be. It's the same kind of circumstance."
Filatov was re-assigned to the Binghamton Senators twice earlier this season and produced seven goals and 12 points in 15 games. Faced with another demotion, he expressed his preference to head back to Red Army, for whom he played 26 games in the 2009-10 season.
"He wants to go back (home) rather than play in the minors and I totally understand — that’s a financial thing for him and his family, so that’s why I’m letting it happen," said Murray. "He has grown up in ... the Red Army club, and they’ve called me a number of times about the opportunity to get him back for the balance of the year.
"I’ve had a number of players go back to Europe and play, then come back and be pretty good players in this league. Hopefully, he’ll be one of them."
While Filatov had some offensive success in Binghamton, it didn't translate to the big club in Ottawa. In the eyes of Senators head coach Paul MacLean, that was the stumbling block in keeping the talented Russian in the lineup.
"He didn’t have an attitude (problem)," MacLean said following Senators practice at Scotiabank Place. "I thought he worked really diligently away from the puck — we didn’t have any real questions about that. It was the fact that his dimension in the American league with the puck was something that was noticeable ... we just didn’t get that here. I’m not sure why he couldn’t do it here, but it just didn’t happen for him.
"I try to give people a chance to succeed and put them in a place where they can succeed. But you can’t just keep doing it, either. At some point, you have to move forward and unfortunately, that’s what we’ve just done here."
Added centre Jason Spezza: "(Filatov) worked hard when he was here. Things just didn't get going for him in his game. It wasn't a bad attitude or work ethic thing. I think he worked hard and wanted to do well, but it's a tough league to be an offensive guy in and it's an everyday thing. It's hard to be consistent."
Filatov is slated to become a restricted free agent on July 1, but Murray made it clear today that the Senators intend to retain his rights. He believes the National Hockey League hasn't yet seen the best of what the talented Russian can bring to the table.
"We know he has to get stronger and be a little more competitive," said Murray. "From a talent point of view, he can play in the league and be successful ... we just wanted to see the compete level be at a little higher pace ... He's a young player. He can go back and play (in Russia) and be an important player, they tell me, so we'll let that happen.
"I think it’s a learning curve and some people take longer than others. I’ve said this to many of the young European players or young Russian players that come over — sometimes, like a Canadian or an American, you have to spend some time in the minors and you have to take time to develop. We’ve got some players on our team that were 23 or 24 by the time they made it. When he’s 23 or 24, maybe he’ll make it."