Monday, September 15, 2008

When The NHL Encourages Players To Jump To The KHL

One of the main stories this summer has been the development of the KHL as a major hockey league. There have been fights over players between the NHL and the KHL. The most prominent one is that of Alexander Radulov who might be interested in jumping back to the NHL. While the NHL has made a big case about Radulov jumping his contract to go to the KHL, there are other players under NHL contacts that the NHL would like to see jump to the KHL.

As James Mirtle points out, the NHL is more than happy to get rid of the bad contracts that don't fit into their plans by sending them to the KHL. The New Jersey Devils sent Vitaly Vishnevski to play with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of the KHL. He was an extra defenceman for the Devils who signed a three year contract in 2007 at $1.8 million per year and did not fit into Devils plans. The Devils didn't want to have to pay him and the KHL was happy to take him. Vishnevski cleared waivers and was assigned to the KHL (as opposed to the AHL). Since Vishnevski is not in the NHL, his salary does not count against the salary cap and since he is playing in the KHL instead of the AHL, the Russians will pay his salary, so the Devils do not have to. The Devils won't be able to recall Vishnevski during the season, so this is likely equivalent to a buyout, except that the Devils do not pay any money for the buyout. This is another loophole in the salary cap discovered by Lou Lamoreillo.

The Calgary Flames would like to do the same. They have Marcus Nilson on their roster due to make $1 million this season. Last season, he was a non-factor scoring only five points. Calgary would like to get rid of him. In fact, they waived but did not buy him out in June of this year. Nilson is attempting to catch on with the CSKA Moscow Red Army Team. If he does this, Calgary will be able to get rid of his salary from their books entirely. Otherwise, he would have to be placed on an AHL team and they would have to pay him instead of letting the Russians do it.

It is hypocritical that the NHL loudly complains when players they want join the KHL and tries to push some players they don't want to jump to the league, so they can get out of their contracts. The NHL wants to be able to allow transfers if the want them and disallow them if they don't. They cannot have it both ways. One of the two will have to come to an end.

1) Shrewd move by Lou. Don't see this as being a huge trend as not all players will be as accomidating as Vishnevski, especially North American born players who might prefer the money/AHL buses over playing in Russia

This is the problem. While you applaud Lou Lamoreillo for making a shrewd move you also make comments that sound upset with Alexander Radulov. You cannot have it both ways. Are players who signed NHL contracts and transfer to the KHL something that should be allowed or not?
Well, one difference is that BOTH parties want to void the contract.
And the NHL has a way to void contracts written into the CBA. You buy the contract out. But in this case New Jersey managed to skip that step and save themselves money in the process.
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