The NHL has been losing Russian players back to the Russian hockey league at an alarming rate. Already this season Roman Voloshenko and Igor Grigorenko have left. The latest player to leave for Russia is Darius Kasparaitis of the New York Rangers.
Kasparaitis has been an NHL player since 1993. However last season, the New York Rangers assigned him to the AHL. He is back in the AHL this season. He was unhappy with riding the buses in the minors and told the Rangers he wanted to leave. The Rangers franchise had a choice. They could suspend him and let him go or they could give their "approval" to the situation and "loan" him there. He was going back to Russia. They had no control over that situation. It was in their best interest to "loan" him. By giving their approval to his departure, this season will count against his contract and there is no chance that Kasparaitis could return to the NHL in the future with a year owing on his deal - a year that appears to be a mistake where Kasparaitis would get paid NHL money to be in the minors.
There has been an alarming exodus of players to Russia. The NHL is having trouble hanging onto Russian talent within their system. No longer is the NHL the location where all the best players in the world play. Many Russians who are good enough for NHL service or could become good enough with a little North American seasoning are not there. Players like Aleksey Morozov, Alexei Yashin, Alex Perezhogin and Oleg Saprykin are not in the NHL. These are some of the Russian players who are good enough for the NHL but are in Russia instead. Every loss of an NHL calibre player weakens the NHL talent pool. Likely, some of these players could be having very solid seasons in the NHL.
For the typical NHL fan, this doesn't matter much. A few "whiner" Russians have left so that gives more chance for local boys to take their NHL jobs. However, the loss of potential NHL talent hurts. No longer is the NHL the place all the best players in the world play. It is entirely possible that a major international tournament such as the Olympics would reveal that one of the best players in the tournament is not in the NHL and is no longer on the track to get to the NHL. This is a major loss to fans. Fans are best served by having one league with all the best players in the world present.
Here is the TSN story on the latest departure to Russia.