The Montreal Canadiens are reportedly interested in dipping into the KHL free agent market. They apparently have their sights set on Konstantin Okulov.
The Montreal Canadiens have not been shy to go overseas to look for free agent help in the past few years. They signed Jiri Sekac back in 2014, Brough Alex Radulov back to North America in 2016, landed Jakub Jerabek, David Sklenicka and Otto Leskinen in the past few years as well.
They haven’t had a ton of success, aside from Radulov who was more of a known commodity, but it seems they are not discouraged. According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, the Canadiens along with the Toronto Maple Leafs are very interested in signing KHL winger Konstantin Okulov.
The Canadiens interest in Okulov dates back to at least last spring, when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned the Canadiens liked the player in his 31 Thoughts column.
Okulov is an average sized, left shooting winger who had 20 goals and 31 points in 48 games last season for CSKA Moscow of the KHL. He had an excellent postseason, scoring seven goals and 14 points in 19 games, which ranked him second on the team as CSKA won the Gagarin Cup.
Okulov’s 20 goals aren’t an eye-popping number, but the KHL is a very low scoring league. He played only 48 games, so his goals per game rate had him on pace with some of the top goal scorers in the league.
His production last season was fairly similar to Ilya Mikheyev‘s who is off to a pretty good start for the Toronto Maple Leafs this year. Mikheyev scored 23 goals and 45 points in 62 games for Omsk in the KHL last season. Had Okulov played very game he would have scored a few more goals, but likely had a few less assists. They both had similarly impressive postseason runs.
Mikheyev is playing a third line role for the Leafs right now and has six points in the team’s first eight games. He is an NHL rookie but at 25 years old and with several years of pro experience in the KHL, he plays a very mature game.
Okulov is currently 24 years old and has 13 points in 17 games for Moscow. His contract runs to the end of this season in the KHL, but chances are he could step into an NHL lineup next year and play a third line role like Mikheyev.
He is currently teammates with Montreal Canadiens prospect Alexander Romanov and the pair have had a lot of success together in the KHL. Could Okulov be enticed by joining a familiar face in Montreal next season?
These KHL free agents have been boom or bust in the past. Vadum Shipachyov didn’t exactly work out with the Vegas Golden Knights. Sekac was okay with Montreal but not a difference maker. Nikita Gusev and Mikheyev look great after a few weeks in the NHL and Evgeni Dadonov has been awesome for the Florida Panthers.
In the right situation, they are certainly worth the risk. With a pal like Romanov coming over next season in all likelihood, Okulov could be a great fit with the Canadiens. Let’s hope he chooses the Habs over the Maple Leafs.