New York Rangers star goaltender Igor Shesterkin will spend the summer in the United States to prepare for the 2022-23 season rather than spend some of his offseason in Russia, a source confirmed with amNewYork on Tuesday.
Uncertainty continues to grow regarding the status of young Russian hockey players, aged 18 to 27 years old, as they are required to serve at least one year in the military — regardless of their status as a professional athlete.
With the war continuing in Ukraine, those who evade their military requirements could face up to two years in prison and a fine of approximately $3,200. Last week, Philadelphia Flyers goaltending prospect Ivan Fedotov was apprehended by military officials and following a brief hospital stint, was shipped to a Russian naval base in the Arctic.
It is unknown if Shesterkin, who is just 26, could have potentially faced such issues if he were to return to Russia this summer, but it is something that his compatriot and New York Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin could experience as well.
Sorokin, who is also 26, apparently has begun his offseason in Russia, per an Instagram post from Dmitry Yashankin.
The key difference, however, is that Shesterkin did not play for KHL side CSKA Moscow — which remains a part of Russia’s Defense Ministry — during his time in Russia as Fedotov or Sorokin did.
“The Army owns the rights to many young [former CSKA Moscow] players who are now playing abroad,” a report from RIA Novosti (h/t The Insider) read. “If they don’t officially resolve the issue with the military enlistment office, then such players as Egor Afanasyev, Artem Grushnikov, Ilya Sorokin, Denis Guryanov, and Dmitry Samorukov could face the same problems that Ivan Fedotov did.”
Such concerns don’t appear to be revolving around Shesterkin’s Rangers teammate and star winger Artemi Panarin, who is now 30 and aged out of mandatory Russian military requirements.
Panarin admitted that despite a smear campaign run against him last year by the Kremlin for his support of a notable Vladimir Putin opposed, Andrei Navalny, he would return to Russia this summer to be with his family.
Shesterkin has quickly developed into one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL having completed just his third season following the North American jump from Russia. He became just the sixth goaltender in Rangers franchise history to win the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender each season, after leading the league with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage along with six shutouts.
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