Friday, July 11, 2008

Transfer Agreement Progress?

The NHL is without a transfer agreement to govern players who jump between the various international hockey leagues. Russia opted out of the IIHF transfer agreement in 2005 and the rest of Europe joined them this season.

The concerned parties met in Zurich, Switzerland yesterday and came to a partial agreement. The various leagues agreed to honor each other's contracts, with penalty of non-participation in the Olympics if this is violated (though this is likely an empty threat). A further meeting is scheduled for September when it is hoped a full transfer agreement can be hammered out where the amount of financial compensation owed to a league when a player from that league jumps to a new league can be negotiated. The main issue is that European leagues feel the $200,000 US payment they currently receive is not sufficient.

This is substantial progress. There have been a few cases of Russian players under contract in the NHL jumping to Russia (such as Roman Voloshenko and Canadian Fred Brathwaite), There have even been isolated cases of Russian players jumping to the NHL (such as Alexei Semenov). This agreement would help reduce this instability.

However, approximately the same time this agreement was announced, it was also announced that Alexander Radulov has signed with Saavat Yulaev of the KHL. Radulov is about to enter the third and final year of an entry level contract with the Nashville Predators. According to the agreement reached, his signing should not be allowed. It is quite likely that his contract was negotiated by Saavat Yulaev without their knowledge of the agreement to respect contracts, so the Russia ice hockey federation was likely not bargaining in bad faith.

Radulov will make significantly more money playing in the KHL than he would on an entry level deal in the NHL. This is one problem of the NHL's entry level deals. It might keep some players from joining the league if they can get higher paying contracts in other leagues.

The loss of Radulov is a blow to the Nashville Predators. He was their third highest scorer last season, with 58 points and expected to increase those totals in the future.

We will immediately see a test of the international agreement. Will the KHL honor Radulov's NHL and send him back to the NHL? Would Nashville want him, if he clearly does not want to be there? Is yesterday's agreement already dead? Will the threat of no Olympic participation actually be followed through with?

The war over players between the NHL and the KHL is underway. It is going to get ugly. Right now the NHL controls most of the best players in the world, but the KHL is slowly trying to chip away at that. Alexander Radulov is one of the first chips.

1)We'd have to say that as of now the KHL is more an annoyance than an actual rival to the NHL.
2) The day that the first star player IN HIS PRIME(22-32) born in North America leaves to play there is the day we agree that the KHL is a true rival.
3) Up until now they are cherry picking up guys who are past their primes, or have yet to make a serious NHL impact. Very few NA born players who are more than scrubs (4th line/AHL-ers) have signed on to play there as well
Radulov should honour his contract, or, the Euro team should compensate the Preds...what's the problem?

The problem is there appears to be no agreement to honor contracts (though yesterday we heard otherwise). More than a dozen people have left legitimate contracts in the NHL and come to Russia or vice versa since the transfer agreement expired.

This has been tried legally. Russia sued for compensation when Evgeni Malkin left and courts denied it. A big question is one of jurisdiction. Do American courts have any way to rule over people who work in Russia? Would a Russian court rule in favor of an American contract?

The reality is, barring successful pressure through the IIHF, players seem to be able to jump back and forth between leagues whenever they want to, as long as the other league will have them.

What you think should happen and what will happen are often not the same thing.
When I first heard about it, I interpreted the NHL denying Toronto signing a Swedish defenceman (Jonas Frogren) was about the NHL flexing its muscles on player transfers. Your analysis calls it a problem of the CBA, and you are probably right.

I don't know how discretionary any of the CBA rules are, and whether the NHL bound to act against the signing.

The Radulov signing makes me wonder how resolved the disagreements actually are, and whether there will indeed be an agreement.

What was that about the empty Olympic hockey threat? How does the IIHF come to decisions? Can a member or members (ie. Russian, Swedish leagues (?)) exercise a veto?

Something else I see developing is a one-year 'temporary' "cease-fire" while the KHL organizes itself and can make a more aggressive pitch to NHL players.

@faux: I would argue Emery is in his prime, regardless of behavioural issues.

1) Emery may have yet to play his best hockey, but its not like the KHL out bid a bunch of NHL teams to get him.
2) He was looked upon as damaged goods so his worth here was diminished as a result. If he were coming off a Vezina finlaist season and the KHL snapped him up then we'd believe the NHL would start to fear them as a legit rival. As it is they acquire second line talent/misfits and guys over 35.
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