Lokomotiv Continues Rebuilding After Tragedy, Zdeno Chara Among Stars Scheduled to Play Exhibition Dedicated to KHL Club


Jul 11, 2012

Lokomotiv Continues Rebuilding After Tragedy, Zdeno Chara Among Stars Scheduled to Play Exhibition Dedicated to KHL ClubWhile signings in the NHL have slowed to a trickle nearly two weeks into the free agency period, a far more inspirational team-building process continues to pick up steam in the KHL.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, which had its entire roster and coaching staff killed in a tragic plane crash last Sept. 7, continued its rebuilding process by signing another player away from the NHL, with forward Niklas Hagman agreeing to terms. Russian news agency RIA Novosti first reported the news of the signing.

Lokomotiv canceled its season last year after the plane crash claimed 44 lives. Among the dead were former NHLers Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins and Karel Rachunek, as well as head coach Brad McCrimmon and assistants Alexander Karpovtsev and Igor Korolev.

Lokomotiv did field a team in a lower-level Russian league last season, and vowed to return to the KHL for this upcoming season. They'll do so with a lineup that includes former NHLers Hagman, defensemen Staffon Kronwall and Sami Lepisto, goalie Curtis Sanford and forward Viktor Kozlov.

Lokomotiv will get more help in its rebuilding effort early next month with an exhibition game dedicated to the club scheduled for August 4 in Switzerland. The Kolten Flyers of the Swiss National League A will take on a collection of primarily Russian stars from the NHL in what is being billed as "Memory Night."

Among the NHLers scheduled to participate are Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who was a close friend of fellow Slovakian Demitra, as well as Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Bryzgalov, Sergei Gonchar, Alexander Semin, Alexei Kovalev, Aleksei Yashin, Sergey Fedorov and Sandis Ozolinsh.

That group will take on a Kolten Flyers squad led by longtime NHLer, and short-time Bruin, Michael Nylander and former Columbus defenseman Duvie Westcott.

That game will help the healing from last year's tragedy. As for the upcoming season, the addition of Hagman should help Lokomotiv be competitive in the KHL once again.

Hagman played 770 games in the NHL with Florida, Dallas, Toronto, Calgary and Anaheim, though he may be best known for being part of the Dion Phaneuf trade in 2010. That deal sent the star defenseman to Toronto for a package of Hagman, Matt Stajan, Ian White and Jamal Mayers. Stajan is the only one still with Calgary, while Phaneuf is now the Leafs' captain.

Hagman, who posted 9-14-23 totals in 71 games with the Flames and Ducks last season, joins a growing list of players with NHL experience signing with Lokomotiv.

Kronwall, the brother of Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall, played in 66 games with Toronto, Washington and Calgary, while Lepisto's 176-game run in the NHL included 26 games with Chicago last year. Sanford resurrected his NHL career last season with 36 games in Columbus after two years in the AHL. Kozlov spent 897 games in the NHL, but last played in North America in 2008-09. He's spent the last three seasons in the KHL with Ufa.

That group will be coached by another former NHLer, as Tom Rowe was hired in April. Rowe had spent more than a decade in the Carolina organization, serving as the coach of their AHL affiliates in Lowell and Albany, an assistant coach with the Hurricanes from 2008-11 and a pro scout last season. Rowe has strong Massachusetts ties, having been born in Lynn and coaching in Lowell for six seasons.

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

Photo via Twitter/@NiklasHagman

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