Two Russian hockey players, including a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, quit talks with NHL teams after the league announced it would not restructure its season around the 2018 Winter Olympics, their agent said Tuesday.
Right winger Maxim Shalunov, drafted 109th overall in 2011 by the Chicago Blackhawks, and undrafted left winger Anton Burdasov have both decided to remain in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for at least one more season for a chance to represent their country at the Pyeongchang Games next year, their agent Shumi Babayev told AFP.
"They were in talks with the NHL clubs about contracts for next season but the NHL decision (on Olympic participation) forced them both to stay in Russia," Babayev said.
"They both want to play in the world's strongest league. But for many Russians, the chance to play at the Olympics is their life's dream."
Shalunov, 24, and Burdasov, 25, have never played for Russia's senior national team.
The NHL has sent players to the past five Winter Olympics, starting with the Nagano Games in 1998, interrupting its regular season to do so.
The NHL's decision to rule the league's stars out of the 2018 Winter Olympics was criticised by the International Olympic Committee and met with dismay amongst many NHL players.
But Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, one of the more than 30 Russian playing in the NHL, said he was determined to represent his country in Pyeongchang.