Valentenko Set to Return to North America

Defenseman Pavel Valentenko, who was acquired by the New York Rangers in the trade that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal last summer, is set to return to North America after a two-year hiatus in the KHL.

In an interview published on his club's website yesterday, UHC Dynamo General Director Andrei Safronov revealed that Valentenko's contract would soon be terminated and that the 23-year old bruising blueliner would return to North America, where he spent a season playing for the Montreal Canadiens' farm club in Hamilton before bolting to Russia four games into the 2008-2009 AHL campaign.

"In the near future we’ll terminate our agreement with the defenseman by mutual consent," Safronov explained. "Valentenko’s contract is very large, and we can’t afford to pay that player such money."

"According to my information, Valentenko plans to go back overseas," Safronov added.

Valentenko's Russian agent, Igor Kramarev, went one step further on Friday, confirming that his client would travel to North America to participate in the Rangers Prospect Development Camp later this month.

"Pavel has received an invitation to go to the New York Rangers’ prospect camp," Kramarev told "He decided to take advantage of this invitation."

Valentenko, who plays a physical, North American brand of defense and owns a booming slapshot, was plagued by injuries during his two seasons in the KHL.  He played just eight games for Dynamo Moscow in 2008-2009 before a back injury sidelined him for most of the regular season.  Once healthy, he struggled to regain a spot in the line-up and played in just one of Dynamo's playoff contests, leading to off-season rumors of discontent between him and Dynamo president Michael Golovkov.

He returned to the team to start the 2009-2010 season, but suffered a pre-season shoulder injury that required surgery and three months of rehabilitation.  After a brief return a separate injury put him back out of the line-up, and once again he struggled to regain a spot upon returning to health.

Over the past two seasons, Valentenko has played a total of four AHL games, 15 regular season KHL contests, and a single KHL playoff game.  That alone makes him a longshot to crack the Rangers roster out of camp.  But if he remains healthy and returns to the form he showed with Hamilton in 2007-2008, a mid-season call-up wouldn't be out of the question.