Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Russians Are Signing

One of the big stories of the summer has been the lack of a transfer agreement between Russia and the NHL. This has lead to an uncertain situation for players under contract in Russia who want to come to the NHL. Evgeni Malkin had to run away from his Russian team - similar to the defections from Communist Russia. On Tuesday he officially signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins (TSN's report is here). Other Russian players had less trouble getting to the NHL. Alexei Mikhnov submitted two weeks notice to leave his contract and join the Edmonton Oilers . He signed with Edmonton on Tuesday. Andrei Taratukhin did the same as Mikhnov and has now signed with Calgary. Here is the TSN story. Alexei Kaigorodov has not signed yet, but there appears to be an agreement in place that he can play with Ottawa should he make the team. If they wish to send him to the minors he must be returned to Russia. Here is this TSN story.

Does this mean that there is a truce between Russia and the NHL? Not even close. The same day Mikhnov and Taratukhin's signings were announced, an arbitrator in Russia ruled against them. The arbitrator ruled that they are in breach of their contracts with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and they are prohibited in playing for any other team for the duration of their current contracts. Of course this probably won't stop them from playing for their NHL teams, but it will open up further legal challenges. It is expected that Metallurg Magnitogorsk will follow with a similar legal challenge against Evgeni Malkin.

The legal battle is just beginning, as Kukla's Korner reports.

Eventually, some co-existence agreement will be forged between the NHL and Russia. Likely, there will be higher transfer agreements in the future. What is unclear is how long and bloody the battle will be to get to that point.

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