The KHL regular season is over and, for those teams fortunate enough to qualify, the Gagarin Cup playoffs are set to begin on Tuesday. Dinamo Riga is not among one of those lucky teams. In fact, the Latvian club finished dead last in the league standings by a considerable margin. For several of their impending free agents, Riga has opted not to make them wait until the KHL off-season officially begins. The team announced multiple contract terminations today. Among them was goaltender Ivan Nalimov, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect and a late addition to Dinamo in December who took over the starting role in the latter half of the season. Per Riga’s release, Nalimov was granted an early termination to “continue his career in the USA.”
What exactly this expected move to North America means for the 26-year-old Nalimov remains to be seen. Having never made the jump prior at any point since Chicago drafted him in the sixth round in 2014, Nalimov remains property of the Blackhawks – a label with an indefinite length. However, the team has previously seemed hesitant to sign the Russian netminder, despite good KHL numbers. In fact, at one point Nalimov formally requested a trade to another NHL team. Whether this was prompted by Chicago refusing to offer Nalimov a contract or whether he simply did not see a path to NHL opportunity was never clear and Nalimov later rescinded the request. This off-season, without much experience at the goalie position, its seemed as good a time as any for Chicago to sign Nalimov and it seemed that he realized this as well, waiting to re-sign in the KHL. It was only after the NHL’s return to play plans were formalized and it became clear that Nalimov was not in the Blackhawks’ plans for this season that he signed in Riga.