Zubarev hoists World Champions trophy (Photo: AP/Darko Bandic)

Andrei Zubarev, a 27-year-old defenseman with the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa, recently told Business Online that “it’s entirely possible” he’ll be coming over to play in North America next year.

Zubarev, who was a first-time KHL all-star as well as a World Champion this season, already had one unsuccessful stint in North America during the 2010-11 season. He played only four games with Atlanta Thrashers, who drafted him in the sixth round in 2005, and 51 with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves.

The Caps would be wise to give this late-blooming defenseman one more shot in the NHL.

Zubarev is a reliable blueliner who skates fairly well and has improved since returning to Russia. If he can adapt to a North American ice surface, he could be just as effective in the NHL.

Though Zubarev is right-handed, he may be a better fit stylistically with an offensive defenseman like Mike Green. In the last KHL playoffs, Zubarev was paired with undersized offensive defenseman Kirill Koltsov.

Zubarev will be an unrestricted NHL free agent for the first time in his career this summer. His contract with Salavat Yulaev expired on May 1st, making him a restricted free agent in the KHL as well.

Zubarev played most of the World Championship with a lacerated arm. He was initially held out of the line-up, but Dmitry Orlov’s injury and the illness of Maxim Chudinov pushed him back in, where he was mostly used as a seventh defenseman. It’s tough to say if that was the appropriate spot for him or if his injury limited him to a smaller role.

At six-foot-one, 220 pounds, Zubarev is one of the most physical players in the KHL. To his credit, he’s been on the right side of the line between tough and dirty, earning just one suspension in his long KHL career. His penalty minutes have trended down since his younger days.

If successful, Zubarev’s signing could give much-needed veteran depth to the Caps’ blue line. The player might even flourish with Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz has coached more than a few successful defensemen in Nashville. If it doesn’t work out, they don’t stand to lose much. Zubarev would not command a contract worth much more than a million dollars and Salavat Yulaev would gladly take him back if the Caps wanted to loan him to another team.

Here are some of Zubarev’s best hits:

In his very first KHL game, Evgeni Malkin probably didn’t expect this welcome.

Wojtek Wolski got hit too.

Another ex-NHLer, Alexander Nikulin, getting some love.

While not an offensive defenseman, Zubarev can score some goals from time to time:

I love Alex Radulov‘s “villain at the end of a kids movie” reaction here.

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  • Name

    Couldn’t be worse than what we currently have

  • Jonah

    if its this or john erskine…

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Thanks, nameless commenter!

  • Jon Snow

    You said he’s right handed, I saw left.

  • deej

    I think you meant to say, “Though Zubarev is right-handed, he may be a better fit stylistically with a [completely inept] defenseman like Mike Green.”

  • Fedor

    Yep. Somehow didn’t notice it after looking up. I think he might have changed it at a pretty late age like Tomas Kundratek did. There was a plenty of confusion with Kundratek early in his career because of that.

  • Barrett

    Bring him in. Competition to motivate the players in the system to be better is what this team needs.

  • Barrett

    The best way to play defense is to have the puck. Mike Green pushes possession numbers in the Capitals favor. He isn’t an inept defenseman, but your lack of supporting evidence won’t change your mind.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    No Caps defenseman over the last four years has allowed fewer shots against than Mike Green.

    http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/ratings.php?db=201014&sit=5v5&type=fenwick&teamid=30&pos=defense&minutes=1500&disp=1&sort=HARTp&sortdir=DESC

  • Sarah

    Well, I don’t see how we’re likely to get a big name blue liner free agent to DC right away, unless it’s in the trunk of a car with lots of duct tape involved. And I like what you’re showing us. So quick, show him DC while the weather’s still nice!

  • Smiley456

    Green under the right coach and right strategy could regain his form (and confidence).

  • Bilal

    I like him. We really need someone who is a physical force on this team thats not a 19 year old rookie. Plus he’s Russian. Also I kinda want us to get Markov in free agency. The more Russians the merrier.

  • Lawrence

    “The more Russians the merrier.” – Haha, good stuff. Markov looked pretty old to me though the last few seasons and especially in the playoffs. I could see him coming over this year however and he will help, but won’t be our savior imo.

  • cobra617

    He was right handed. Adam Oates talked him into playing left.

  • Bilal

    yeah same, but I think he can at least mentor some of our younger players, like Orlov and Schmidt and in some cases Carly and Alzner. But in terms of D Men that can help in the D zone, I like Starlman, Fayne or Meszaros. Still thats not do deep of a free agency class, so i’m hoping GMBM (why not Mac?I mean can we be honest….) can make something happen in the trade front. Maybe acquire Edler from Vancouver? I dunno, we just need some help and fast.

  • B. Jasper

    He could be the next Niklas Kronwall

  • Barrett

    How about Willie Mitchell or Matt Greene of the LA Kings? Henrik Tallinder of the Sabres? Nick Schultz, Douglas Murray or Brooks Orpik are some other veteran names. It doesn’t sound like Vancouver is going to move Edler. I don’t think Strahlman leaves New York and I like Fayne from New Jersey, especially coming from a defensive-minded system.

  • Chris Best

    A Capitals defenseman who can actually hit and be a physically imposing presence? Is that allowed? I thought we did away with that sort of nonsense when Scott Stevens left.

  • Shmoo

    “And I won’t tell no one you’RE Name / I won’t tell ‘em you’RE Name” #googoo

  • Shmoo

    If you’re talkin’ Kings, you gotta be talkin’ Schultz.

  • John

    he loves the hip check haha!

  • tpr04

    Interesting idea. I’m all for anything that might improve the defense. IMO, we should trade Green, even for a prospect. I don’t see us as having any real chance at the Cup next season, so not sure what sense it makes to use up over $6M in cap space for a guy in his final season. If you really wanted to, you could take that money and make a play for Statsny or have it available for a trade in which you take on salary.

    In any event, the Caps are facing the prospect of rebuilding half their defense – if Green doesn’t leave this year, he leaves next. So you have to add to the trio of Carlson, Alzner, and Orlov. Not sure how the AHL prospects will pan out. I liked Schmidt, but him and a few others would probably be best served by getting top 4 minutes at Hershey next season.

  • Bilal

    yeah but you would think that LA would re sign Mitchell and Greene if they win the cup. So far there are quiet a lot of good options, but not to many great ones. Which is fine, if we can nab at least 2 good D-man in the off season that would be good. If we keep Green, we are gonna need someone who can give him space and less time on defense. Possession wise, I like Green, but if he has more defensive responsibilities then it’s not gonna help him at all. Or the team.

  • Semintheghost

    Who is #10 on the black and yellow team on the last video? That dude has some skill

  • Matt Dorsey

    It’s not the number of shots, it is that so many of his mistakes seem to lead to almost impossible to stop scoring chances. 3 on 1’s, breakaways etc…

  • Chip

    SIGN MOAR RUSSIANS

  • Justin Collins

    So he plays right handed for hip checks and left handed for goals?… lol

  • John M

    Could he bring Wojtek Wolski back with him if he comes?

  • Barrett

    Alexander Rybakov, I think.

  • Barrett

    Why is everyone so sure that Mike Green leaves once his contract expires? He isn’t going to command a huge return in a trade (as his stats have fallen off in recent years) and isn’t going to receive a huge contract anywhere near his current one with Washington (if he goes or stays).

    The team has $15mil in cap space assuming the cap is set at the projected $71mil mark. They really only need three or four players: a 2nd line center (re-sign Grabovski or chase Paul Stastny), a 3rd/4th line center (Steve Ott or Manny Malhotra type player), a 2nd pair stay-at-home style defenseman (Willie Mitchell, Matt Green, Henrik Tallinder, Douglas Murray, Brooks Orpik, Nick Schultz, Mark Fayne) and a veteran goaltender (Jonas Hiller, Evgeni Nabakov, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ilya Bryzgalov).

    Ovechkin – Backstrom – Wilson
    Kuznetsov – Grabovski/Stastny – Brouwer
    Chimera – Laich – Ward
    Fehr – Malhotra – Beagle

    Alzner – Carlson
    Mitchell – Green
    Orlov – Olesky/Erskine

    Holtby – Hiller

  • Semintheghost

    OK. Thanks!!

  • MadFlava

    Tinordi might have been the closest thing since.

  • Shaun Phillips

    I think a lot of that has to do with the system, especially on the PP. When there’s only 1 d-man back at the point, any mistake is going to be super costly.

  • Shaun Phillips

    27 isn’t really that “late-blooming” for a good defensive defenseman. The offensively-skilled dmen (Green, Subban, Karlson, etc) generally have that side of their game coming out, so it makes it feel like they’re “early”. It takes longer to learn to play the defensive side at the elite levels (a lot like goalies). Also, the defensive side of the game lasts longer than the offense usually does, so at 27 you could still expect a good 7-8 years from him.

  • Red

    I love hip-checks as much as the next guy (Orlov) but those are a bit too low-bridge for my taste.

  • Red

    I don’t believe duct tape is covered under the current CBA as a legitimate recruiting tool. I like the way you think though.

  • Guest91

    I’d love to see a Chimera-Ott-Ward line, that would be a tough line to play against! Can see Latta being slotted in here if Laich isn’t around though

  • deej

    It was unfair to say Mike Green is completely inept, but I do believe his defensive skill has declined to the extent that he isn’t defensively capable of playing against strong offensive opponents without being consistently put at a disadvantage. He does well against softer opponents, but against aggressive and physical opponents cannot pickup opponents driving to the net or control play out of the corners. It’s why good opponents like Boston & NY “target” Mike Green – because it’s easy to get an advantage on him that leads to goals.

  • deej

    Where’s your supporting evidence that “the best way to play defense is to have the puck”? Do teams that have the highest puck possession always have the lowest number of goals against? No, they don’t.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I’ll jump in.

    No, the team that has the highest possession does not ALWAYS have the lowest number of goals against. “Always” is not our threshold for acceptance here. But possession over a long term does correlate pretty damn well with goal ratio, so boom goes the dynamite or whatever.

  • Eric Schulz

    I think we’ve gotten into this before, so I’ll try not to belabor the point.. um, I think Wilson is a great fit on the 2nd (with Kuz and Grabovski; I’d push Brouwer to 3rd and pull up Fehr to 1st), and many think I am being too bullish on Wilson, so to see him on the 1st… doubtful. I think Fehr would just be such a great fit there. I certainly wouldn’t mind Wilson at least getting an audition for the top line in the preseason, if nothing else… you could see why he would be a great fit there, even if we can’t know that he’s good enough (yet). If he sticks there, then Brouwer on the 2nd should be a nice complement to Kuz Nasty and Grabovski. But then, to me, that means our 3rd should be Laich – Johansson – Fehr, assuming Laich returns at least somewhat to form. I’d prefer Brouwer there because he’s more of a proven finisher, which I think would help to unlock Johansson’s potential, and Fehr on the 2nd would create a really nice blend with the other two guys, having 3 players who are equally comfortable shooting or passing. Not a big deal either way though.
    On the 4th, obviously Chimera and Ward there gives us a top flight 4th; I’d prefer Latta there and, just as with Wilson, he should certainly get the audition. I think we are better off with Beagle as a scratch (in this scenario, really I’m dressing Johansson to scratch Beagle, which I think is obviously a net positive; Johansson isn’t better at everything than Beagle, but he’s clearly better overall, and I think my line combinations allow for him to fit better too). Malhotra is pretty old; I wouldn’t mind signing him (or a similar player) as a backup plan in case Latta isn’t ready, I just would want to be sure signing him wouldn’t prevent Latta from getting a fair chance. We aren’t signing him to play him, we’re signing him just in case. At his age I’d think he’d be okay with it; I’d hope he’d even prefer going to a team strong enough to think he’s more of a rotational guy. I’m sure he wants to play… but I’d also think he’d be okay getting more rest during the season, and not taking as much abuse at his age while expecting that he’d still be likely to see some playing time in the playoffs, as attrition thins the ranks a bit. I think Latta or Brown fit there; Latta should get first audition; if he doesn’t crack it then Malhotra gets it with Beagle waiting in case of injuries.
    If Wilson earned a top-6 spot (1st or 2nd line would be fine, IMO) and Latta earned that 4th C spot, then we’d have Malhotra and Beagle as scratches (leaving the 3rd scratch to a defender… probably Hillen, although I’d rather see if we could move him, even if for a pick, and have Oleksy/Brouillette be the scratch). We wouldn’t have a lot of guys in the AHL I’d feel comfortable calling up, but Brown is clearly ready for at least a little seasoning but he’d be much better served by getting AHL playing time than either Malhotra or Beagle since those two are pretty much finished products. And Latta is still young and developing, but obviously in this case I’m rolling lines; a 4th of Chimera – Latta – Ward is a huge asset if you roll lines; if you don’t, it’s a pretty big waste of talent (and money, mainly Ward), but having 4 lines is a good thing and Trotz, unlike Oates, tends to use all his lines, so having Latta on the 4th wouldn’t be as wasteful this coming season as Wilson on the 4th was. He’s getting more playing time, and also playing with players much better than what Wilson was getting.
    On defense, Mitchell is pretty old; I think Gilbert maybe has the most upside as a fit there, and Meszaros is the safest bet. I’d prefer either one, and there are probably 3-5 guys other than them that I’d still rather have than Mitchell, but yes, somebody *like* that. If the team evaluates things and decides he’s the best fit, then I’m fine with it. Again, as with Wilson and Latta, I’d like to see Wey get the audition for the spot next to Orlov. If he doesn’t earn it, then it’s Erskine’s if he returns to form. If not, then I’d say Oleksy is probably the best fit, although I wouldn’t mind seeing Brouillette there either. If Wey earns it, then Erskine is the scratch if he returns to form. If not, then drop him to NHL, and Oleksy is the scratch. If Wey doesn’t earn it AND Erskine doesn’t return to form, then drop both to AHL and Oleksy and Brouillette are the 6th and 7th, in whatever order. I feel like Oleksy is the better player overall but Brouillette is the better fit, and I don’t think the difference between the two talent-wise is big enough that you definitely put Oleksy there. I’d be happy with either option.
    Bottom line, I think we only really need to add that 4th defender (Green’s partner), a backup goalie, and Malhotra or somebody similar isn’t a bad option to have as a scratch/rotational player. I think our defense is way better than it’s been for the Ovechkin-era Caps, at least; we should easily be able to fill that 6th D spot in competition, and I’d actually prefer that. This is the first year that I prefer to address a question mark on defense in-house rather than adding a free agent. With Orlov, we have the makings of a better 3rd than we’ve had in a long time, we just need to get Green a partner worthy of him. At forward, I’m banking on Wilson being ready for a top-6 spot and Laich returning at least mostly to form… but even if neither happens, we can still throw out:
    Ovechkin – Backstrom – Fehr
    Kuznetsov – Grabovski – Brouwer
    and have a legit top-6; we don’t have to hope for anything here, we know all of those guys are up to the task. The 3rd and 4th become a little harder though if Wilson has to go to the AHL (IMO, if he’s not a top-6 guy, you put him in the AHL. If you were okay splitting up Chimera and Ward – which I’m not – then maybe you can have him on the 3rd, but I would rather just send him to the AHL). I’d say put Johansson’s speed between Chimera and Ward on the 3rd; those two play more of a dump-and-chase, forechecking style, and Johansson’s speed would be a genuine asset there; even though he’s not a very physical player, I think those two help offset that. The 4th would be a bit harder, but we’d be fine with Malhotra at C and Beagle at RW, we’d just need to find a LW. In this scenario, we don’t have the 4th getting nearly as many minutes as we would if Chimera and Ward are there, so I’d be okay with Stoa or Wellman there, honestly.
    You’d probably rather sign a guy, but we enter next year assuming Wilson will be a top-6 guy and/or Laich returns somewhat to form; you can assume that neither will happen, but I’d rather spend money on Grabovski, the top-4 defender, a veteran goalie, and Malhotra, and then just let the pieces fall where they may. We should still have a nice bit of cap room to make changes in-season. The only big move I’d make is the top-4 defender. Other than that, just let the season play out, and see how we look. If, halfway or so through the season you really think we need to bolster that 4th LW then we can easily make a trade to address that and just give up a 3rd or 4th to a floundering team in exchange for a better player.
    Also, a note about Stoa: he reminds me of Pouliot. High pedigree, lots of skill, but he really hasn’t lived up to his promise. I really like those guys; they generally end up being cheap, above-average guys on the bottom-6. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if we gave him a chance with Malthotra and Beagle on the 4th line, I think he’d surprise a lot of people.

  • Fedor

    By “late-blooming” I mean “the one who wasn’t considered a top prospect”.

  • Barrett

    Not going to lie. I didn’t read a majority of that.

    When you don’t want players because they are old it makes no sense. You need that balance. The guys that are “pretty old” are currently guiding the LA Kings to, potentially, their second Stanley Cup in three years. John Erskine is the elder statesman of the Capitals blueline at age 33, but he isn’t a leader, he’s a role player. The next oldest defenseman is Mike Green (whom 95% of fans seem to want traded out of town) and Jack Hillen, who hasn’t been on the ice in two seasons. I don’t want to see the Capitals go into another season with the AHL carousel of defenseman call-ups.

    The Kings roster is filled with players who carry leadership qualities from Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown to Matt Greene, Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell. You cannot say the same thing for the Capitals roster and it is clearly evident they lack that.

    I don’t care if Latta, Brown, Stoa, Wellman, Wey or Brouillette could potentially be an NHL player. They aren’t the players that are going to lead this team right now. They will get their chances if/when a proven player is injured. It is then up to them to show management and coaching staff that they belong at the NHL level. That’s why I throw names out there like Willie Mitchell or Steve Ott. They possess the leadership the team needs.

  • Eric Schulz

    When players get older, they slow down and also become more susceptible to injury. Considering Mitchell and Malhotra were never that fast, nor that great, their decline as they get older is more pronounced. If you add a guy like Iginla in his late-30s, he can still be a 2nd liner, or a great 3rd. Malhotra is now, at best, a 4th liner, and if he regresses quickly (as older non-stars are prone to do), we may be getting him too late to be a regular. If you know that when you sign him, and expect him to be a scratch, or only fill that 4th C spot if Latta can’t (and you expect him to be able to, based on his development to this point and his play last year), then you’re fine. If you sign him thinking that he’s better than he is, then you have a problem.
    Also, Ott sucks, and isn’t a leader.