Thursday, September 04, 2008

KHL Disputes As Many Transfers As Possible

One strategy of the KHL to retain as much Russian talent as possible is to dispute the contract status of as many Russian players as possible who are transferring to the NHL. Even if a player does not have a clear contract for next season, when they sign with an NHL team, his contract status will be disputed.

This strategy is clear with the Los Angeles Kings signings of Andrei Loktionov and Viatcheslav Voynov. These are two 18 year olds who were drafted by the Kings in part because they understood that they were not under contract with the KHL. Maybe the Kings had their information wrong, but most likely this is a ploy for the KHL to keep as much young talent as they can in their grasp. If it becomes enough of a hassle with the IIHF to sign these players, teams will decide to forego signing Russians in the future (many teams already have done this) and they will be forced to stay in Russia.

It is still unclear how the NHL will handle IIHF suspensions, but the KHL is disregarding them in the case of Alexander Radulov. Will these players be given the green light to play in North America? If it is difficult to obtain them even after their signing, the NHL will likely turn their back on such players in the future. This gives the KHL more talent to work with and reduces the NHL's status as the league with all the best players in the world.

1) In the case of players like these who are 18 and haven't played a game in the NHL, it will be difficult to tell what was really lost (if anything).
2) Many a good Euro has come over to the NHL and flamed out, so it will only be a guess as to whether any of those guys would have had a big impact in the NHL or not. Unlike a guy such as Radulov who has shown to be a legit NHL-er, and possible star.
3) AS we have said before the KEY to this KHL-NHL rivalry will be IF an NHL star in his prime bolts to play in Russia. To date, other than Radulov, the biggest loser in this deal is the AHL, who have lost some decent lower end talent to Russia
You come along with every player lost (or potentially lost) to the KHL with that same basic theme that this guy isn't that great so its no major loss and that misses the point. Undoubtedly some of the players who don't come to the NHL would have been significant NHL talent (the more players they draw the better the chances of this). Some of them would have developed tremendously if they were in the NHL. It wont be long before we reach a situation like in the 1980's where Igor Larionovs or Slava Fetisovs and Vladislav Tretiaks are in the KHL and undoubtedly could have been significant NHLers if only they had ever come to the league. Worse, there are players from other countries in Europe who pick the KHL over the NHL (possibly because they can make more money there - with no two way entry level contracts). This is before we even worry about established NHL talent leaving. Give this league a few years and they will develop some of the better players in the world. These are players the NHL may never see.
At the same time, playing too hard a line could easily backfire on the KHL. Some players are going to want to come to the NHL. Playing hardball with every player will lead to some (such as Kiril Petrov) sliding far or even not getting drafted at all for fears they won't be able to come over - regardless of whether they have a KHL contract. Their league may simply lie about their contract status, or exert off-the-ice influence to keep them around.

A few things have changed since this post - chief among them the money the KHL is willing to pay - but in effect, if the league is partially bankrolled by crime cartels, it amounts to the same thing. It will require something very like defection for a player to get to the States to play in the NHL.

For the record, I think the Penguins should have paid something for Malkin to be released from his Mettalurg contract, and I definitely think that the respective leagues are going to have to respect each other's contracts, or else write mutual release clauses into their standard language, with an applicable schedule of transfer fees depending on things like draft position and past performance. Bettman's hard-line stance on this is no more promising than KHL's.
I think because of his two seasons of professional experience in Russia, Voynov was eligible to forego the junior process in North America, and was assigned to the Kings' minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. where to buy a research paper
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