Since the signing of Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, the National Hockey League and Russian Super League have been at odds.
Whatever happened ended in Malkin escaping to Pittsburgh, and Russia losing its star.
In the years following, Russian teams tried to lure Malkin and others away from the NHL with their ability to offer tremendous amounts of money compared to the now-capped United States market.
Today the two agreed to not pursue players extending outside of their league’s borders who are still under contract (ESPN.com).
The Continental Hockey League, otherwise noted as KHL, has expanded to 24 teams in order to become somewhat of a European Super League. Each team can offer a maximum salary of $22.5 million a year, which is what makes the league such a temptation for current NHL-ers.
From today’s meeting a common agreement exists between the two leagues. As long as a player is under contract in either the NHL or KHL, he is off limits and the opposing league should not allow any team to pursue him.
“Everyone in the room agreed that for the foreseeable future everyone will respect everybody’s contracts,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.
Alexander Medvedev is the founder of the Russian Continental League, and had previously encouraged teams to pursue Evgeni Malkin. As a result of the meeting Medvedev became part of a group designed to iron out the problems and lay down the groundwork for an international transfer agreement.
A focal point of the September meeting will be paid compensation to European leagues who lose out-of-contract players to the NHL. The current monetary compensation is set at $200,000, a figure considered low enough for six European nations to protest. The Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland all have voiced their disapproval.
It seems, at least for the time being, that the KHL is no threat. As an earlier post of mine indicates, not much NHL talent has left the league. The majority of players that are leaving are prospects who can earn more money right now than they could in the NHL.
Furthermore, a trend may develop among European veterans in the NHL. As we saw with Jaromir Jagr, and Martin Straka’s decision today, aging veterans in the NHL can actually go back home and make a significantly greater amount of money in the KHL. Time will prove this to be true or false.
NHL officials didn’t voice too much concern surrounding players leaving.
“We don’t view them as a threat,” he said. “We still believe the best hockey players in the world will continue to want to play in the NHL.”
However, they did point out some glaring facts that could inevitably become a problem in regarding free-agency from year to year.
“It gives some of our guys another place to play,” Kelly said. “It gives them some leverage they might not otherwise have, which is to present to their NHL teams that they have a competing offer from a KHL team and maybe improve their bargaining position.”
An interesting topic of conversation came about in the meeting that would excite any hockey fan. There was talk of a World Cup in 2012 in attempts to help globalize the game.
The World Cup has done wonders in expanding soccer’s fan base in the US. It would be great to see the same happen for hockey, which has quickly become the fourth-tier professional sport in the US to the NFL, NBA and MLB.