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Canucks ‘disappointed’ by Nikita Tryamkin’s decision to return to KHL

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Nikita Tryamkin, right, of Russia, speaks with teammate Ben Hutton during NHL hockey practice in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 11, 2016. Tryamkin signed a contract with the Canucks earlier this week after playing in the KHL the past 4 seasons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The Vancouver Canucks say they are disappointed by defenceman Nikita Tryamkin's decision to bolt the club and return to the Kontinental Hockey League.

The hulking 22-year-old Russian had two goals and seven assists to go along with 64 penalty minutes in 66 games for the Canucks in 2016-17, but will play in his home country next season after 13 months in North America.

Tryamkin told reporters through a translator last week after Vancouver limped to a 29th-place finish that he was interested in returning to the Canucks in the fall.

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"We are disappointed Nikita chose to sign in the KHL, but also recognize from what he told us in our exit meetings that this was a family decision first," Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a statement Thursday. "He has a chance to be an impact player in the NHL and we offered him a two-year (contract) extension. But for now he is home and we will move ahead with building this team with other young players."

The six-foot-seven, 265-pound Tryamkin was drafted by Vancouver in the third round, 66th overall, in 2014 and signed in March 2016 after Yekaterinburg Automobilis was eliminated from the KHL playoffs. Tryamkin played four seasons with Automobilis and will rejoin to the club for the 2017-18 campaign.

Tryamkin's return to the KHL was announced on the team's website and then posted on the league's official Twitter feed. The Canucks will maintain Tryamkin's NHL rights should he decide to return to North America.

He played 13 games with Vancouver after signing last season, registering two points (one goal, one assist) and 10 penalty minutes, but was used sparingly early this fall after the Canucks felt he showed up at training camp out of shape.

Vancouver wanted to send Tryamkin to the American Hockey League for more seasoning, but he blocked the move thanks to a clause in his contract, and eventually got into the lineup after a series of injuries, averaging 16:44 of ice time per game.

Tryamkin was referenced by Benning and president of hockey operations Trevor Linden as one of the youngsters in a core group the team was looking to build around at their media debrief following a disappointing 2016-17 campaign.

But the Canucks, who could also lose a defenceman to the Vegas Golden Knights in the upcoming expansion draft, will now have to look elsewhere to fill a big hole – both literally and figuratively – on their blue line.

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