Ivan Fedotov's Long and Strange Journey to Becoming a Flyer

Ice Hockey - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 16
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Fedotov Signs ELC With Flyers

Based on his performance in Russia and the KHL, widely considered one of the best hockey leagues besides the NHL, the Flyers signed Fedotov to an entry-level contract. He was 25 at the time so it was expected his one-year deal would give him a chance to claim the backup spot to Carter Hart at the very least. At best, he could challenge the oft-injured goalie for the starter job if he impressed in camp.

He signed the deal in May. You would think after signing the deal, the hard part was done. All that was needed now was to get him on a plane to Philadelphia, work him out during rookie camp, get him prepped for training camp, and see how it played out. It didn't exactly work out that way.

Going AWOL?

Around the same time Fedotov signed with the Flyers, the Russian offensive in Ukraine stalled and had significant problems. Why am I bringing international conflicts and politics into a story about hockey? What do they have to do with each other? Turns out, it matters a lot.

You see, CSKA Moskva, the team that Fedotov was playing for, used to be known as the Red Army Team. The very same team that played the USA in the famous 1980 Olympics. Most of the best Russian players played on that team. Why is it called the Red Army Team? Is it some Cold War joke? Sort of, but mostly, it is because the team is, technically, owned and operated by the Russian Army.

CSKA was not too happy that their award-winning goalie was leaving for America. So, as late June/early July of 2022 rolled around, the Russian Army High Command accused Fedotov of failing to register for the Russian draft. For several days, the Flyers and his agent had no idea where he was.

Then he turned up at a Russian military base and was detained after being arrested. As time went on, it was clear that the Russians would not let him come over. His entry-level deal would roll over until he could come to North America once released from military duty. But if you think this was the end of the weird part of the story, you'd be wrong.

International Incident

The following summer, the Flyers tried to get him back. After all, he did sign a contract with Philadelphia. The KHL and NHL have agreements that allow players to come over and play. It gives credibility to the KHL as an elite hockey league and allows Russian stars to shine on the world stage.

Turns out, CSKA didn't want to give up their elite goalie. The Flyers appealed to the International Ice Hockey Federation. The IIHF ruled that the Flyers' contract was valid and he should come to the NHL.

Like two bickering parents arguing over visitation time with the child, the Flyers-KHL-IIHF story dragged out. Russia refused to honor the ruling. In response, the KHL, and CSKA in particular, were heavily sanctioned by the IIHF. But since Russia doesn't care about wartime sanctions, do you think they would care about hockey ones? Nope.

Philadelphia Freedom?

On March 28, 2024, the saga finally came to an end. After an early exit from the KHL playoffs, CSKA Moskva terminated Fedotov's contract. He was now free to come to the US.

Fedotov is only signed through the end of this year. After this season, he will become a free agent. The Flyers will get a chance to see him play over the next three weeks. With Ersson shouldering the load for the Flyers, he could use time off. Sandstrom and Cal Petersen have been ineffective as backups. Fedotov can give Ersson some rest while showcasing his talent. At best, Fedotov could unseat Ersson during a playoff run, if the Flyers make it.

With fellow KHL'er Alexei Kolosov joining the Phantoms soon, Fedotov could have competition in staying around. Ersson has been fairly dependable all year. Hart is a free agent to be, as is Sandstrom. Petersen is a likely buyout candidate. Fedotov will have a few weeks to show if he has been worth the wait. If not, the Flyers have several prospects waiting to take his spot.

Fedotov's story has been messy for him and the Flyers. Who knows, maybe had he come over here and signed the contract in person, he might have saved himself some anguish and the Flyers would know what they had in him last year. Life, however, happens for a reason. He's here now. Hopefully, he can make the best of his situation and the opportunities presented to him.