Former Pittsburgh player Alexei Morozov named KHL president

MOSCOW β€” Former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Alexei Morozov was appointed president of the Kontinental Hockey League on Friday.

The Russia-based league said Morozov was the unanimous choice of its board. His predecessor, Dmitry Chernyshenko, stepped down after being appointed a deputy prime minister in the Russian government last month.

Chernyshenko had been in charge since 2014 and tried to restore the league's competitive balance by lowering the salary cap and encouraging financially struggling clubs to leave the league. That brought the KHL down to 24 teams this year from a high of 29 in the 2016-17 season.

His tenure also saw a shift away from Europe and toward Asia as the KHL left the Slovakian and Croatian markets but expanded into China with Kunlun Red Star. The club is part of China's efforts to develop hockey in time for hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Morozov isn't expected to make any radical changes, according to the chairman of the KHL's board, billionaire businessman Gennady Timchenko.

β€œHe has a huge amount of work ahead of him, but the path is clearly defined by our development strategy and the league will continue to follow that route steadily,” Timchenko said in a statement on the league website.

Morozov made 451 NHL appearances for Pittsburgh from 1997-2004 and won an Olympic silver medal with the Russian national team in 1998. He returned to Russia during the 2004-05 NHL lockout and stayed there when the NHL resumed, finally retiring in 2014 after winning two KHL titles.

Morozov had been serving as the KHL's vice president for developing junior hockey and oversaw the KHL's junior league.

The KHL has teams in six countries in Eastern Europe and Asia. It is heavily focused on Russia, which has 19 of the teams, with no other country having more than one.

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