Montreal Canadiens: Alexander Romanov Finally Allowed To Join Habs

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 28: Alexander Romanov. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 28: Alexander Romanov. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens are in Toronto preparing to face the Pittsburgh Penguins. A certain Russian defender finally joined the team.

The Montreal Canadiens went way, way, way off the board with their second round draft pick in 2018. The Habs held three picks in the second round and after selecting Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the third overall pick, they decided to remain in Europe for their second rounders as well.

The Canadiens took Jesse Ylonen 35th overall which is pretty much where he ranked. Then, they selected Alexander Romanov with the 38th overall pick. This guy was ranked 115th by NHL Central Scouting, 179th by Future Considerations and 156th by

So, no one really expected him to go any earlier than the fifth round. That is why it was such a surprise when he was taken early in the second round.

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Since then, the now 20 year old defender has proven to be worthy of his early selection. He made one of the KHL’s best teams before his 19th birthday and stayed there full time. He won the Top Defenceman Award at the World Junior Hockey Championships as an 18 year old. He was fantastic again for Russia at the World Juniors as a 19 year old.

Mostly known for his defensive and physical play, Romanov showed he had an offensive acumen as well. At the World Juniors he scored 14 points in 14 games over those two years with Russia, helping the team claim a bronze and a silver medal in the process.

When the KHL cancelled the remainder of its 2020 postseason in April, there were questions about Romanov’s status. It was heavily rumoured that he was looking to move to Montreal after the 2019-20 season, and it appeared he would sign a contract when his CSKA Moscow duties were fulfilled. With the KHL season over, he was free to sign with the Montreal Canadiens. Right?

Not really. A long and arduous process began shortly after the conclusion of his KHL contract. The NHL owners and the NHL player’s association were debating a Return to Play protocol for the National Hockey League at that time. For some reason, one quirk in the new rules was that players from Russia were ineligible to sign with NHL teams until the 2020-21 season.

Then, negotiations continued and it appeared these players would be allowed to play. That optimism was short lives as those rumours were squashed and the NHL decided players who signed during the stoppage in play were not eligible to participate in the 2020 NHL postseason.

Typically, a drafted player like Romanov, who is on the Canadiens protected list, would be allowed to join them at any time in the season. Not this year.

Then, the two sides agreed to an odd format that allowed players to sign with their NHL teams, but did not allow them to actually play games with those teams.

When the dust finally settled, Alexander Romanov finally officially signed his entry level contract with the Canadiens on July 13. It is a three year contract but the first year is officially the 2019-20 season. Still, he isn’t allowed to play games this season.

Once that was cleared up, Romanov began to get ready to travel from Russia to Montreal. However, during a global pandemic that was a little more complicated than usual. It was assumed he would join his teammates in Montreal, but then it got delayed. Also, he would need to fulfill a quarantine period when he arrived in Canada. It got to the point where the Canadiens would be in Toronto by the time he finished his quarantine, so the 20 year old Russian went straight to Toronto.

(This was of course after lots of confusion about whether he was allowed to go to Toronto before the rest of the team, or if he had to go to Montreal to quarantine and then travel to Toronto.)

Today, finally, after so much confusion and change of plans, Romanov was allowed to join his teammates for practice. With the team practicing behind not just closed doors, but locked doors with security all around them and fences separating public property from those doors, it is going to be difficult to get much intel on how Romanov looks on the ice.

So now Romanov is allowed to join the team for practice, but he is not eligible to play against the Pittsburgh Penguins at all. At least he will be able to get familiar with his new teammates and skate with them during the postseason. This will allow him to be more conformable and prepared for NHL duty when the puck drops on the 2020-21 season.

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It is unfortunate the skilled 20 year old can not play for the Canadiens this season. But, at least his contract is taken care of, there is no chance of him returning to Russia in the near future to play, and he will be more prepared to begin next season in Montreal. Sounds like he is looking forward to it.