When you sign a grocery list’s worth of players to contracts across the organization, it’s not surprising when one or two don’t go according to plan. Such is the case with forward Nikolai Skladnichenko, who the Marlies have agreed to part ways with so he can pursue other opportunities.
From Kyle Cicerella:
Marlies and forward Nikolai Skladnichenko have agreed to a mutual release, allowing him to return to KHL. 21-year-old was on AHL contract
— Kyle Cicerella (@KyleTheReporter) October 13, 2015
While somewhat surprising that the decision would come so quickly, interest from back home may have played a part. Skladnichenko was a member of Metallurg Novokuznetsk’s organization for the past three years though the team was so far east that it was closer to Beijing than it was to Moscow, his hometown. It’s possible that he may want to sign with a closer team, but as a restricted free agent, that would involve a transfer fee.
Alternatively, he could end up pursuing an opportunity with another AHL team. He didn’t look out of place during training camp, and it’s not like he’s totally unfamiliar with playing in North America; he spent two years playing youth hockey in Bobcaygeon before heading back home. His demotion to the Solar Bears, which was the likely trigger of this decision, was likely more a byproduct of the offensive depth of the Marlies than it was a criticism of his game.
If the Leafs organization wants to stick with this three-tiered system long-term, mutual agreements like this aren’t going to be overly rare occurrences. Players are signing in hopes of working their way up to bigger and better opportunities, and if the hill becomes too insurmountable to climb and they have a backup plan available, they’ll likely look to take it. It’s a bit of a shame to not see him play a “meaningful” game while here, but this both gives a little more opportunity to one of the other players and shows other free agents that the team will co-operate with you in a worst-case scenario rather than leaving you for dead.
The Marlies play their next game on Friday against the Albany Devils, while the Solar Bears open their season on Saturday against Greenville.