Thursday, February 01, 2007

Malkin Case Dismissed

The Pittsburgh Penguins are reporting that the legal cases filed by Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Elite League regarding the transfer of Evgeni Malkin to the Penguins have been thrown out.

Because there is no NHL/Russia IIHF player transfer deal the legal standing of players who are under contract in Russia and jump to the NHL (or vice versa) is in question. The NHL teams pay $200,000 for each player they sign from the elite leagues in Europe, who is still under contract in that league. Russia has refused this claiming it is not enough compensation. As a result, the pipeline of Russian players coming to the NHL is in jeopardy. Last summer, Evgeni Malkin had to defect to leave his Russian team. Since there is no transfer agreement, the NHL position is that they do not owe anything at all to the Russians for Malkin. The Russians are suing to get transfer payments. Courts have thrown out these lawsuits filed on the case of Evgeni Malkin.

Although the NHL seems to have won in this case, the Russians are not going to be allowing the NHL to dictate conditions to them. The battle will continue. This comes after what had looked like a potential thawing of relations, after Alexei Mikhnov's return to Russia had been peacefully negotiated and Russian Ice Hockey President Vladislav Tretiak had suggested a new Summit Series.

A new Summit Series might be the vehicle for Russian issues to be addressed. This is a potentially lucrative event that they will suggest, if the NHL can come to terms with them on a player transfer agreement.

Right now, the future of young Russians coming to the NHL is unclear. Likely, some will still come to North America to play, but it will be a battle to bring them. I would be a bit leery to draft Alexei Cherepanov this summer, because he may be the next person around whom this battle is fought.

Here is the TSN story on this legal ruling.

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