I Thought We Had an Agreement?

David HeereSenior Analyst IJuly 12, 2008

There is a new hockey league in town, the KHL. The KHL is the new name for the Russian Super League for those of you who were wondering what the heck the KHL is.

The one key difference between the old Russian league and this new KHL, is that the KHL has tons of money and is sick of having its players go to the NHL. So, the new Russians are trying to steal players under contract with NHL teams as long as there is no transfer agreement between the two leagues.

This all started last year with the Columbus Blue Jackets having Alexander Svitov sign a two year contract with the Jackets then turn around almost the next day and sign a contract in Russia and go to play for Avangard Omsk.

The Jackets were much better off without the bust of a former third overall pick, but that is beside the point.

Recently with the new money the KHL is making, they have been throwing ridiculous contracts at NHL players like Malkin and Jagr to try to bring some star power to this new league.

In looking at this issue from the Russian’s perspective, the NHL has been doing similar things to their players since Sergei Fedorov (Detroit Red Wings).

A random Russian hockey team is at some team dinner or something, and a guy like Nikolai Zherdev (another Blue Jacket) “has to go the bathroom” or something.

Sounds of a taxi cab peeling out from in front of the restaurant can be heard and the coaches and players looked baffled at how long it is taking this guy to finish his business. It turns out that while his team is downing their military ration, this Russian player is munching on peanuts on a red eye flight to the United States.

This backstabbing and double-crossing was getting out of hand, so recently the NHL and the new KHL signed an agreement to respect players under contract in their respective leagues. The announcement came on the afternoon of July 10, 2008. That morning the Blue Jackets had signed Nikita Filatov to an entry level contract.

So now we hear that the KHL claims the Blue Jackets and Filatov’s Canadian Hockey League team owes them compensation for signing him. It is hard to get an exact read on the situation because there are conflicting stories coming out of both camps and the International Ice Hockey Federation works slower than a Zamboni when it comes to resolving situations.

Additionally, the Russians claim that under their law (which the IIHF has no control over) that Filatov is not an unrestricted free agent even though he is not under contract with the Russians. I think that translates to, "he is a restricted free-agent that does not want to sign with his team and his team will not trade his rights", but my Russian is bit rusty.

Personally, I think the Blue Jackets signed Filatov before the agreement went into affect and therefore they, and the CHL team, do not owe the Russians anything. Add that to the fact he is not under contract, reportedly, so his situation is not covered under the transfer agreement.

To add an even higher level of complexity to the situation, on July 11, the KHL team Salavat Yulayev Ufa, signed Nashville Predators’ player Alexander Radulov. I know, it makes my head hurt too, but just think of it like a soap opera. Radulov claims he sort of told Nashville he wanted out of his contract to go play in Russia.

This is similar in regards to Swede Jonas Frogren, who apparently asked to be released from his contract from his Swedish club to sign with the Maple Leafs.

Anyway, the Radulov situation has an interesting twist because the team he signed with is under the thumb of the IIHF so it gets exempt from this “Russian law” stuff and has to abide by the transfer agreement.

The bottom line is this: Sit down, shut the heck up, and stop stealing each other’s players. Otherwise there might be another Cold War between the Central Division and the KHL.