In many ways one has to feel kind of sorry for Alexei Cherepanov the Ranger's first round draft pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. One has to wonder who really has Cherepanov's best interests at heart these days.
It seems that this talented 19 year old tends to find himself in the middle of some sort of controversy at least 2-3 times a year. At times we are left wondering if even Cherepanov knows what exactly what he wants for his future.
Here is perhaps the one sure thing and that is that Cherepanov is going to play in Russia next season as a member of Avangard Omsk. After that then everything else is nothing more than rumor, gossip and idle speculation about his future.
After taking the time to let the "furor" die down about Cherepanov's reported statements about his not attending any of the Ranger prospect camps or the Ranger training camp, we took a look ourselves and from all that we have seen the only is for sure is that too much was being made over what was said.
If you want to find a villain in all of this then there are a few of them to talk about or get angry at. The first we believe has to be Cherepanov's agents and advisors as we have to wonder just how well they communicate with their client.
We point a huge finger of blame at them because there is no way that they could have missed what the Omsk General Manager Anatoly Bardin told a Russian reporter about making Cherepanov available to the Rangers for training and development. It is their job to make sure that their client is made aware of situations involving his career.
We do not forget that it was Cherepanov's agent Jay Grossman who made the statement about Cherepanov having an agreement with Omsk to join the Rangers that was later retracted. That was not a good move for Cherepanov's image as few ever blame an agent.
That Cherepanov winds up either making statements that like he did about the Blueshirt Bulletin or about his contract situation does not help the prospect's image or career from where we sit. The wording, the meanings of those words come across as if Cherepanov is about himself and we can not help but think that what was said did not translate very well.
That is where an agent and advisors is supposed to come in, it is their role to help prepare their clients for interviews such as this one. Either Cherepanov never reads anything or his advisiors do not. Someone should have let Cherepanov know who exactly make the original idea that had people believing that Cherepanov was going to train with the Rangers.
That person is of course our second "villain" here in Avangard Omsk General Manager Anatoly Bardin who the more Ranger fans saw of him the less they should have liked. To his employers Bardin did his job generating publicity and interest in Avangard Omsk even if it came at the expense of damaging Jagr's Ranger legacy and how Ranger fans might be viewing Cherepanov.
As soon as Bardin started making all these "statements" that Cherepanov was coming over then our European informants were warning us that those words did not sound right. We got told that when the Rangers gather for training camp that the Omsk would be getting their regular season underway.
Bardin knew that but must have counted on the lack of knowledge about the Russian KHL or even European hockey in general to fool Ranger fans. Our memo to Bardin is that you may have fooled Ranger fans this time with your statements but the price is your credibility in the future.
If you think Bardin is feeding people a bunch of bull about the Rangers and Omsk becoming "twins" then can you just picture the kind of image that Bardin is going to paint Cherepanov about what playing for the Rangers would be like.
That leads to the next "bad guys" as well and that is the way some Ranger fans are questioning a prospect that so very few can say they have seen Cherepanov but already have decided the kind of person Cherepanov is or will become.
This place covers Ranger prospects and we can acknowledge that our actual count of the number of games that anyone who supplies information in North America has seen Cherepanov play live and in person is less than 10 games last season.
Most of us who caught Cherepanov play anywhere was on television at the World Juniors while Cherepanov was struggling with Bronchitis and never was close to 100% for the tournament. Yet we are seeing all these messages questioning Cherepanov's heart and desire.
It seems as if so many are making harsh judgments of a prospect that fewer have seen but on draft day in 2007 most were excited that a prospect who was supposed to be a Top 5 pick had slid all the way to the Rangers. So what exactly has really changed?
We also have to point out how the negative stuff seems to increase with each report that Cherepanov is not joining the Rangers this year. We see these interviews that take place in ways that almost appear that Cherepanov is being set up to say the wrong thing.
We also want to make very sure that we are not at all talking about what Dubi said over at the Blueshirt Bulletin. See Dubi was making a point about wanting to become a Ranger and not even Dubi knows for sure what Cherepanov's plans were.
Dubi however was having some fun over seeing his magazine mentioned by Cherepanov and who can blame him? Hopefully it will generate some interest in the magazine or website which helps us as well.
The saying is possession is 9/10ths of the law so the Russians will have a huge edge in being able to keep Cherepanov with them in Russia but we will toss a new wild card into the mix; a different team within the new Russian KHL after this season.
With the behaviors we are getting reports on about the new KHL then we expect that if Cherepanov has a good season then more than the Rangers will be in the hunt for Cherepanov.
Here is what we think just might happen if Cherepanov has anything close to a good season in the new KHL:
Omsk and someone else within the KHL will grossly overpay Cherepanov to the point where the Rangers are not even at the starting line due to entry level contracts.
With the lack of a working Player Transfer Agreement between the NHL and members of the IIHF including Russia that the Rangers will continue to own the rights to Cherepanov until further notice.
Those in the know believe that Russians will eventually price themselves out of a stable league with salary wars so the KHL will fall as have several other attempts to compete with the NHL have done.
The Rangers will remain patient and allow Cherepanov to continue his development and here is something that few pay attention to:
Players between the ages of 18 and 21 must sign "entry-level" contracts for their first three NHL seasons. Those aged 22-23 are entry-level players for two years, those aged 24 for a single year.
And after a player turns 25 then there is no limit as to how much an NHL team can pay on a prospect's first contract. (page 23 article 9.1 B of the NHL CBA). Unlike all the others who sign right after being drafted where they are limited by salary and bonus caps the only cap on a prospect over 25 is that he can not be paid more than 20% of a team's salary cap which is just like everyone else.
Is it any wonder why the Rangers do not appear to be all that worried about Cherepanov and why he will not be coming over this fall? The Ranger patience is just an act but give the Rangers some credit they know that sooner or later if Cherepanov is worth bringing over then the Rangers will get their chance.
We also know that there is going to be one way to get to the bottom of all this mess and we hope to be able to do that sometime this season. We will not go into details just yet but we hope to find out what really is Cherepanov's dreams and goals.
Now the hope is to return to the rest of the prospects and what news we have about them.
(Cherepanov picture courtesy of Avangard Omsk)
7 hours ago