In the opening salvo of what appears more and more likely to turn into a war, the Russian Kontinental Hockey League has decided to value Alexander Radulov's contract.
This comes after Radulov signed last week with KHL club Salavat Yulaev Ufa, even though he has a year remaining on his deal with the Nashville Predators. It also comes despite reports that the NHL and KHL had reached agreement not to poach players currently under contract in either league.
But the KHL argues that the agreement doesn't apply to Radulov.
“The NHL is trying to put things in a retrospective way saying that the (Radulov) transfer, which was on the fifth of July, constitutes the moment when we should respect each other’s rights,” said Ilya Kochevrin, a vice-president and the director of marketing for the KHL to The Hockey News.
“But this issue was dealt with in Zurich on the 10th. If you want to look at things retrospectively, we should prorate all the way to the time when Ovechkin and Malkin were taken out of the Russian clubs.”
While promising to honor the deal, the KHL also reports that they anticipate having a formal document prohibiting poaching ready by August 1. But the NHL isn't satisfied with that, and seems ready to do anything necessary to enforce Radulov's deal with the Predators. That apparently includes refusal to accept any transfer agreement with the Russian league.
“While we are pleased with the announcement that the KHL has voted to approve the accord we all talked about and agreed to last week, that does not lessen the obligation they continue to have—both legally and morally based on traditional principles of contract law and on representations made to us on at least two prior occasions—to respect valid and binding contractual obligations in our league,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Hockey News.
The intensifying battle between the two leagues has already involved the International Ice Hockey Federation, who last week ordered the KHL to void the deal. Now that they have refused to do so the IIHF has the power to "red flag" Radulov and ban him from international play for Russia and his KHL club.
But as far as the KHL is concerned, that's just tough for the NHL. From their perspective, this is nothing more than the NHL getting a taste of their own medicine.
"There was a one-way street when Russian players were moving to North America and clubs feel frustrated because so much has been invested in those players and nothing was given in exchange. The NHL has not been respecting our contracts for years, or even decades, and we need to have some control with respect to contracts," said Kochevrin.