Roman Cervenka – Return to the NHL or Bust

SKA fans were struck from out of the blue by the news that Roman Cervenka‘s contract with SKA St. Petersburg had been terminated and he now appears ready to join the flock of KHL players headed for North America next season. 

Cervenka was previously with the Calgary Flames before joining SKA and they still have his rights, but the news seems like he’ll be joining the ranks of many players ticking down to July 1 when their rights break free. However, unlike many that have caught the attention of the mainstream media, Cervenka has been quiet, and reflected in his interview with admitted that “The agents have talked to scouts” but there’s no offers yet.

While Cervenka never topped the KHL scoring list, his point production was almost the same as his last season with Avangard Omsk back in 2011-12, matching 39 points in his first season with SKA in 2013-14 and netting 36 this year. Those numbers might not be remarkable by any means but there’s context to Cervenka. His NHL debut was cut short by both a blood clot problem and injuries that kept him from fully playing out of the 2012-13 season. Struggling to adapt to North American ice, he registered 18 points, a -13, and sat looking down from the press box some nights. His NHL tenure wasn’t sunshine and happiness. He earned natural praise from some Calgary fans and as he reflected, it did not quite go how he expected.

However, with SKA, he became a strong staple in a team where Artemy Panarin ran off with his spotlight. His production was the same as five years ago and at 29, he’s still managing to outperform youngsters on the team like Viktor Tikhonov or Jimmie Ericsson. He finished 6th on his team in scoring and was also one of the top forwards in terms of ice time. What the numbers show further is Cervenka’s incredibly high shot numbers. Despite sitting on the penalty kill and playing a more shutdown role, he still managed to be third on the team for shooting. He was on a team with deep talent and lifted the Gagarin Cup, but speaking of the team, he commented it “was filled with too many greats. That did not suit me.” Cervenka leaves on a happy note, with his teammates singing his praise.

Compared to Tikhonov, another center-turned-winger who has an offer from the Arizona Coyotes and who is going to free agency, Cervenka blows him out the park. Playing less ice time, (almost a minute-and-a-half) he actually managed to produce more shots than Tikhonov during the regular season, while on a shutdown line. This is with Tikhonov playing alongside Ilya Kovalchuk, who still remains one of the highest in the league in terms of shooting and shot percentage. To take it further, half of Tikhonov’s eight goals were scored on the power play, where Cervenka managed only two, but scored an impressive 11 at five-on-five.

While Cervenka sits with what he says is little more than scout talks and waits for an offer, Tikhonov appears to be waiting for a better one than the Coyotes. This means that, while it’s unpredictable what might happen, Cervenka might just be a softer, cheaper investment than Tikhonov. While the risk of Cervenka being 29 (two years older than Tikhonov) might deter some, he has value that certain NHL teams might just pick up. His 39 NHL games and the Gagarin Cup might just make him a bit more appealing than he thinks.

The thing is, as remarked before, Cervenka admitted he has received no offers and has only spoken to scouts. While he might be willing to “wait as long as it takes,” things look rather slim and he appears to have no backup plan at present. It is out of his control, in the hands of his agent with the NHL as his number one priority and, if it does not work out, it won’t be until two months later that he seeks an alternative.

With no backup plan, and for many of his like, who turn down millions from the KHL to find better shores or risk making less in a SHL club, it’s the NHL bust.

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