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Maxim Shalunov will not join Blackhawks this season, per report

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Sibir won’t release the forward from his KHL contract.

There’s no chance of Maxim Shalunov joining the Blackhawks for the 2017 playoffs because his KHL team won’t release him from his expiring contract, reports The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

That means Shalunov won’t be joining the Blackhawks until at least next season, and possibly even longer. There was hope that Sibir Novosibirsk would release Shalunov, an upcoming restricted free agent in the KHL, from his current contract, but they’re refusing to do so and will trade him.

Shalunov’s agent, Shumi Babaev, told Powers that the contract situation will prevent the forward from signing in the NHL for at least four months.

“They will not give us permission to play in the NHL for the next four months, so we can only decide after the contract,” Babaev told The Athletic. “I talked to Sibir’s GM [Kirill Fastovsky] and asked if they’re ready to cancel the contract. He said, ‘No, is not possible.’”

The Blackhawks drafted Shalunov in the 2011 NHL Draft, and still hold his rights thanks to the lack of a proper transfer agreement between the NHL and KHL. As long as he continues playing in the Russian league, his rights will stay with the Hawks.

Shalunov will already be 26 years old if he wanted another two years to sign, but there are a lot of factors at play here. He put up 19 goals and 18 assists in 49 KHL games this season for a team that fell one point short of the playoffs, and scored a goal in the league’s 2017 All-Star Game. The winger is emerging as a top player in his home country.

As a big forward who can skate well and finish scoring chances, he’s an intriguing prospect if the Blackhawks can bring him over. The Blackhawks’ top six for next season suddenly looks a bit more solid with the emergence of Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik, but Shalunov would surely get an opportunity to play in the top nine at the very least if he signed for next season.

There’s still a chance that happens, so we’ll have to see if Stan Bowman can sell him on making the move. There’s more on the situation over at The Athletic.