Star prospect Alexander Yakovenko has unexpectedly left the Detroit Red Wings, returning to Switzerland, just as the regular season gets underway. The 24-year-old defenceman was expected to play a big part in the team's quest to return to the playoffs, having failed to qualify in each of the last four seasons.
Initially acquired from Dallas as a key piece in the Drew Doughty trade, Yakovenko was convinced to move on from EV Zug, where he'd been a point per game player. Asked to take a couple seasons to get used to the North American ice, Yakovenko offered a steady attacking presence on the backend, and was presumed to be ready to take the next step.
And it wasn't just Detroit GM Kevin Smith who thought that would happen. "Ever since he came over, I've been constantly getting calls from other GMs looking to acquire him, including several just this week" seemingly referring to the rumoured offers from San Jose, Anaheim, and Dallas. Toronto was also reportedly very interested, offering up former 1st round pick Isaac Ratcliffe and a 3rd or 4th round pick for Yakovenko, having previously tried (and failed) to convince Smith that Wilhelm Westlund was an adequate match.
Indeed, a quick search of this paper's own rumour pages show over 25 rumours for Yakovenko just in the month of September!
But with Kevin Smith always firmly denying that he was actively shopping Yakovenko, it is now quite a surprise to find out that the player has torn up his contract and returned to EV Zug.
"We're going to miss the little guy", Smith said, "but Switzerland is closer to home, so we understand. Hopefully they treat him well."