Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Using The Russian Situation To Get to The NHL

Because there is no player transfer deal with Russia, a player can leave North America to go to Russia even if he is under contract. Many have done this, including Alexei Kaigorodov, Enver Lisin and Alexei Mikhnov. This has created a very leaky pipeline of Russian talent coming to the NHL.

The latest player to threaten to return to Russia is Igor Grigorenko of the Detroit Red Wings. He has been in the AHL playing with Grand Rapids, the Red Wings minor league affiliate. Although he could leave at any time to return to Russia, he has an "out clause" written directly into his contract that he can leave after 3 weeks in the minors. Grigorenko made it known that he was going to use this out clause. Instead of risking losing him, the Red Wings called him up to the NHL.

Grigorenko is a good NHL prospect, but thus far he has not done much in North America. He has no points in five AHL games. The Red Wings will likely give him a shot, but they cannot offer much ice time to him and when a couple players return from injury (Dallas Drake and Johan Franzen), a decision will likely have to be made. Can Grigorenko play in the NHL now or will he have to be sent to the AHL (which likely means he goes to Russia)?

As things stand, unless a Russian player is an instant NHL star, there is a good chance he will decide to return to Russia before he gets a serious shot at playing regularly in the NHL. Since few players are good enough to be instant stars, most never stay in North America long enough for a career. This costs the NHL since it reduces its talent pool.

Here is a post by Red WIngs writer Bruce MacLeod on his blog Red Wings Corner explaining the situation.

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