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Lightning’s Vasilevskiy says he’d rather be NHL backup than KHL starter

Jared Clinton
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Andrei Vasilevskiy (Len Redkoles/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Lightning’s Vasilevskiy says he’d rather be NHL backup than KHL starter

Jared Clinton
By:

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy doesn’t sound like he has any intention of ever heading back to play in the KHL. The Russian goaltender, and heir to the Lightning crease, said he’d rather watch from the bench in the NHL than play every game for a KHL club.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is already among the best Russian netminders in the world, and it could be just a few short seasons before the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender is the best option in goal for the Russian national team.

And while being a Russian star usually goes hand-in-hand with occasional reports about the consideration of a contract in the KHL, Vasilevskiy has gotten way ahead of those rumors to make sure no one thinks he could be headed back to Russia.

According to KHL reporter Aivis Kalnins, Vasilevskiy, 22, has said he would “much rather sit on a bench in the NHL than play in (the) KHL.” The Lightning puck stopper added that he didn’t care if contract offers were coming his way now or later, he’d be staying put in the NHL. Not that Lightning fans were worried about Vasilevskiy leaving, but it’s always good to get some reassurance from the team’s future starter.

Vasilevskiy’s strong words about his chances of heading back to the KHL don’t come without him having experienced the primarily Russian league, either. In 2012-13 and 2013-14, Vasilevskiy played 36 games in the KHL with an 18-9-5 record, four shutouts, 2.21 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. He’s been there, done that and very clearly decided the KHL is not for him.

This past campaign, Vasilevskiy started showing signs of the gradual shift to starting duties, putting in the most work in the NHL he has in his career. Vasilevskiy played 24 games with an 11-10-0 record, one shutout, 2.76 GAA and .910 SP. Those aren’t awe-inspiring numbers, but Vasilevskiy improved in the post-season, turning in a 3-4 record, 2.76 GAA and healthy .925 SP.

Vasilevskiy has been considered the heir to the Lightning goal for the past two seasons, and that was made even more clear when Tampa Bay locked him up to a three-year, $10.5-million contract extension on July 1, the first day the two sides were allowed to put pen to paper on an extension.

With the high price tag associated with Ben Bishop and the expansion draft looming, it’s believed Bishop could be heading elsewhere before the 2016-17 season ends. And if Bishop does happen to remain on the Lightning roster up until the end of the campaign, it’d be hard to fathom him not finding himself a job with the expansion club.

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Lightning’s Vasilevskiy says he’d rather be NHL backup than KHL starter