SKA Signs Finn as U.S. Players Return Home

SKA Signs Finn as U.S. Players Return Home

Published: January 16, 2013 (Issue # 1742)

Kontinental Hockey League club SKA St. Petersburg has signed Finnish forward Teemu Ramstedt on an 18-month contract in the wake of the exodus of star players back to North America following the resolution of the NHL lockout.

Ramstedt, who has spent his career in Finland with Helsinki area teams Espoo Blues and HIFK, fills a gap at center.

“I’m most comfortable playing as a center forward, it’s when I most often get the puck and can make a good pass,” he told SKA’s press service after the signing.

The 113-day NHL lockout concluded Jan. 6. During the lockout many players from the NHL signed temporary contracts with KHL teams, but now the labor dispute is over these players have returned to their clubs in preparation for the NHL season.

“We just lost three of our best players, so we need to analyze the situation, fill in these gaps and make a number of adjustments,” said SKA head coach Jukka Jalonen. “We’re in real need of a goaltender, because [Ilya] Yezhov isn’t particularly healthy right now. But nothing is certain.”

Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets was a solid netminder for SKA during the lockout, particularly during the holiday break, when he anchored SKA with three shutout wins over Slovak team Slovan Bratislava, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, as well as a win over Czech team Lev Praha. The winning streak strengthened SKA’s grip on first place in the division.

“I’m leaving the team with a heavy heart,” Bobrovsky lamented in his farewell address. “The lockout was quite good for me and it’s tough to leave the team. I want to thank everyone, particular goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila. I think all levels of my game have improved over the last three months.”

While Bobrovsky and St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko left the club immediately following the end of the NHL lockout, after SKA’s 5-2 loss to Ak Bars Kazan last week, SKA captain Ilya Kovalchuk skipped the New Jersey Devils’ truncated training camp and stayed for SKA’s 4-2 win over Salavat Yulaev Ufa, before continuing to Chelyabinsk this weekend for the KHL All Star Game, in which leading players from teams in the Eastern and Western divisions of the KHL face off against each other in an East vs. West showdown. Kovalchuk, who captained the Western Division team, scored a hat trick, but his team nonetheless fell to the Eastern Division 18-11 in the exhibition game.

Kovalchuk’s delayed departure and flowery statements about SKA and the KHL led to speculation that he might finish the season with SKA, but he left for New Jersey following the All Star Game.

“I’m sad to leave, but I have fulfilled my [NHL] contract. The [KHL] playoffs are just around the corner and things are about to get interesting,” he said in a short farewell address. “SKA is a strong team, capable of achieving greatness, and I’ll be following the team and rooting for SKA from across the ocean.”

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