St. Louis Blues: Klim Kostin’s Visa Problems Work Out For Team

The St. Louis Blues loaned some prospects overseas and, now, cannot get them back. In one case, that’s not really a bad thing.

It was a little over a year ago that Klim Kostin scored his first NHL goal with the St. Louis Blues. After having been talked about by fans for awhile, it was good to see him have early success at the highest level.

Fans immediately began wondering when he would get his shot on a full time basis. It would not be in 2019-20 since the Blues only wanted to use those couple games as a carrot to keep him going.

It apparently will not be in 2021 either. The shortened season, coupled with visa issues, is likely to keep Kostin in Russia. Whether that is for the full KHL season or not remains to be seen.

The confusing thing is how this happened in the first place. The Blues loaned Kostin to Avangard Omsk so he would get games while the North American players were sitting idle.

The contract was worked out so that Kostin could return to America as soon as the NHL season was ironed out. Apparently customs had other ideas.

“He’s had some visa issues, and he’s still playing in the KHL,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said, as reported by Tom Timmermann. “So we’re trying to get him back here but very difficult to get visas right now getting into the country. We’re working with him on a daily basis. He scored the other night — we’ll keep working with it.”

You would think everything would have been cleared beforehand and Kostin should not have been gone long enough to lose any status within the United States. But, customs have their own rules and regulations, so who knows.

Regardless, this might actually be a blessing in disguise. While working within the Blues organization is the best option, Kostin is at the stage where he needs to get games. Anything less is a disservice to him.

On the outside, it sounds great that Armstrong wanted Kostin in camp to give him the chance to make the NHL roster. However, with no preseason games, there’s just no way Kostin was going to be able to do enough in practices and scrimmages to overtake the 18-23 players that are all but written down in pen on the roster sheet.

Putting Kostin on the taxi squad makes absolutely no sense. Yes, on talent alone, Kostin should be one of your next men up should anyone go down with an injury or illness.

Does it really make sense to waste a year of his development in the hopes that he gets maybe 10 NHL games? If you’re on the taxi squad, you’re not playing in any games at all unless someone gets hurt or sick and that’s just not a place for a young player that is still figuring out his way through the professional game. Kostin has to play games, not just skate in practices and pregame warmups.

On a similar note, how much better would the AHL option be than the KHL at this point? The KHL has started early enough to where they will likely play something close to a full season.

The AHL does not begin until February. As of the end of December, they have a start date, but no concrete plan on which teams can play in their home arenas, which can have fans, whether any players will be allowed to be called up to an NHL team or even how many games will be played.

That’s not a great environment for Kostin either. The AHL might plan on a 40-game schedule, for example, and then be forced to shut it down for some reason after 15 or 20 games.

It, again, falls back on Kostin needing games. Even though one goal and a handful of points is disappointing through 23 KHL games, at least he is playing. He’s already played more games this season than he might in the AHL with all that is up in the air with that league.

Kostin does need more exposure to the North American game on NHL-sized rinks, but the benefits of getting that in a handful of opportunities vs. playing a full season in Europe are next to none. He simply has to play.

This is not a reverse example of American soccer players wanting to go to Europe to train with the best and having that be better than games in the MLS. Kostin needs to play and if he can get more games in the KHL then this visa trouble he is having is for the best. He needs structure and consistency, not bouncing around between countries and styles and not knowing if or when the next game will be.

I was as surprised as anyone to not see Kostin’s name on the 40-man training camp roster. But being a glorified extra, hoping for someone to get injured, is no way for him to develop. Though it’s irritating for him to be stuck over there, it seems like it might be for the best.