Thursday, September 11, 2008

Radulov Wants Back To The NHL

The NHL and the upstart KHL are fighting over players international rights. Since there is no player transfer agreement teams have been able to sign players under contract in the other league with legal uncertainty surrounding the future of those players. One of the big KHL signings this summer was Alexander Radulov of the Nashville Predators who was signed by Saavat Yulaev of the KHL. The signing was announced the same day that both leagues agreed to honor each other's contracts. The KHL argued that Radulov was signed before the agreement was made and they would keep him. Radulov has played three games in the KHL season and leads his team with four points. He has now announced that he wants back into the NHL.

Last week, the KHL announced that they would let an arbitrator handle the Radulov case. At the time, this was a surprising move. It appeared that Radulov would stay in the KHL and there was little the NHL could do about it. Offering the olive branch of an arbitration case was unexpected. Perhaps they knew Radulov wanted to leave and figured their best chance of keeping him was to have binding arbitration award him to their league.

Radulov is a man who breached his NHL contract this summer and now intends to breach his KHL contract to return to the NHL. It is not a good position for him to find himself in. He is seen as a villain by fans of both leagues.

It seems clear that there is more to the story than has been reported so far. It is quite possible that Radulov signed the KHL contract under duress (there may have been threats to him or his family) or something was promised with the contract signing that is clear now cannot possibly be delivered. It is also possible that he sees himself as a pawn in the NHL/KHL fight. The KHL is willing to give him up to win a public relations battle and he would rather leave on his own terms.

If Radulov returns to the NHL, it changes the player battle between the NHL and KHL. The NHL would have emerged from the first summer of the KHL's existence without losing a single player who is under contract to the fledgling league. They did lose players who have clear NHL talent (Jaromir Jagr, Ray Emery, Ladislav Nagy for example) and the KHL has other players with NHL talent already (Aleksey Morozov, Oleg Saprykin, Alex Perezhogin etc.) but the NHL is the clear victor in the year one battles. The KHL may be forced to develop the talent in Europe into stars. This is something that they can do if they can have a stable existence for a few years and retain players who might otherwise go to the NHL.

Comments:
1) Perhaps behind the scenes the KHL is pushing Alex back here as a face saving solution to this issue? If he returns before the season he technicly isn't in breach of contract
 
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