Canucks take a flyer on Alexander Burmistrov on a one-year deal

Pass it to Bulis

When Alexander Burmistrov entered the NHL, he got off to a strong start, scoring 20 points in his rookie season. He improved slightly in his sophomore season to 28 points and had solid underlying possession numbers, suggesting he was heading in the right direction to being an impact forward.

But then the lockout shortened the 2012-13 season. Instead of being allowed to return to the KHL during the lockout, he was assigned to the AHL. That combined with frustration over his role with the Winnipeg Jets led to him bolting for the KHL, where he played two seasons before returning to the Jets for the 2015-16 season, putting up an underwhelming 21 points.

He simply never panned out the way it was hoped when he was picked eighth overall in 2010. The Jets eventually gave up on him, putting him on waivers last season, where he was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes.

And now he will join the Vancouver Canucks, signing a one-year, $900,000 deal.

It’s tough to know what to make of Burmistrov, who seems to oscillate between being a below-average depth centre to a legitimate top-six forward, with no clear indication of which he’ll be on any given night. He finished off his season with the Coyotes on a line with Max Domi and Anthony Duclair and he went on a 4-game point streak, but the line had an ugly 43.0% corsi together.

Burmistrov has speed, a sound defensive game, and shows flashes of offensive creativity, but he doesn’t put up a lot of points and his underlying possession numbers, once his calling card, just keep getting worse. On the other hand, he has been a decent penalty killer in the past and, with the right linemates, can be an effective bottom-six centre.

At 25, Burmistrov is a decent reclamation project for the rebuilding Canucks and a $900,000, one-year deal is the right contract for that type of project. But fans should keep their expectations low.

The biggest question in my mind, is what happens to Brendan Gaunce? Burmistrov is best at centre: will the Canucks play Gaunce on the wing? Will they use Burmistrov as a 13th forward? Is a Gaunce trade — or even a Brandon Sutter trade — in the cards?

The addition of Burmistrov, as well as sometimes-centre Sam Gagner, adds some intrigue to the summer and next season’s training camp.

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