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Former Devils Defenseman Leaves NHL for KHL in Controversial Transfer

The Devils drafted defenseman Nikita Okhotyuk in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft.

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New Jersey Devils

In the KHL’s offseason, the top Russian professional hockey league has seen a decent number of NHLers opt to leave North America. The latest player to head to Russia is former New Jersey Devils defenseman, Nikita Okhotyuk.

Darren Dreger of TSN reports that Okhotyuk signed a two-year deal with CSKA Moskva on Sunday morning. The news came after CSKA acquired the Russian defenseman’s rights on May 22nd from Torpedo.

Okhotyuk’s transfer from the NHL to the KHL is seemingly controversial, similar to Ivan Fedotov‘s transfer in 2023 as he was in breach of a Professional Player Contract per Article II.4.1 of the IIHF International Transfer Regulations when he signed a contract with CSKA hockey club for the 2023/2024 season.

CSKA has yet to make an official announcement regarding Okhotyuk’s signing.

The Devils drafted Okhotyuk in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft, 61st overall. The Chelyabinsk, Russia native dressed in a Devils sweater for 15 games across two seasons, scoring two goals and three points. Okhotyuk was more of an AHL regular with the Utica Comets, playing in 83 games across two seasons, collecting five goals and 13 points.

Okhotyuk established himself as more of a physical, defensive defenseman who was catching up to NHL speed.

The Devils involved Okhotyuk as part of a massive package that went to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Devils forward Timo Meier. After playing 43 games with the Sharks and five additional games with their AHL affiliate, San Jose Barracuda, Okhotyuk was traded to the Calgary Flames for a 2024 conditional fifth-round selection.

Currently, in the KHL, the Devils are waiting for their top European prospect, Arseni Gritsyuk, to cross the pond to the NHL, although it’s been confirmed by New Jersey Hockey Now that the 23-year-old forward will wait until his is complete following the 2024-25 KHL season.

If the Flames tender Okhotyuk a qualifying offer, they will retain his rights until he turns 27 years old.

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