Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Semenov Called Up From Russia

Since there is no NHL/Russia IIHF transfer agreement to set the rules of the game, any transaction that transfers a player between the two leagues is big news because of the precedent it starts. The two leagues are still fighting over the Evgeni Malkin transfer to the NHL, but there have been signs that relations may be thawing lately (such as Alexei Mikhnov's peacefully negotiated return to Russia. This latest move is a curveball with ramifications I am having trouble predicting.

The Florida Panthers called up defenceman Alexei Semenov, who had been playing with Ufa Salavat Yulayev in the Russian League. Semenov attended training camp with Florida and did not make the team. He is on a two-way contract, paying no more than $95,000 in the minors (thus he does not have to worry about re-entry waivers to get back to the NHL. They sent him to Rochester in the AHL where he played four games and then left to Russia. Since he walked out on their AHL squad, Semenov was suspended. In Russia, Semenov was paid well over $95,000, but that does not count since it's not an NHL contract. Thus there is a way for some players to get around the $95,000 minor league effective salary cap. Florida contacted Semenov and promised him an NHL job so he'd came back.

This move helps to better explain the suspensions of Alexei Kaigorodov and Enver Lisin. Their teams were keeping options open in event that they could convince the player to return to the NHL this year and not suspending him in punishment for exercizing a valid clause in his contract (though they could spin the punishment angle to fans upset that he is leaving to Russia).

I am yet to find any Russian response to this move, but they cannot be happy with being used as an NHL minor league and losing a player to the NHL in time for their stretch drive.

Here is the TSN story on the call-up, with no explanation of the back story to it. I think the fact they wrote an article about this and opened it up to "your call" comments shows that they understand the potential importance of this move, but hesitate to spell it out to keep in the NHL's good graces. The fact only one person bothered to respond with a comment (and one that misses the mark about the potential ramifications of the story) shows that the Russia/NHL story has been effectively swept under the rug this year by mainstream media.

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