"What we've got here is... failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach."
The KHL is playing the Captain, making a case for all the other young Russian (and not) players. Not that I am an opponent of a strong KHL. I am all for it. But every goal has to be achieved by legal means.
Not long ago we all found out about Joel Kwiatkowski(notes) and his flight from the "green pastures" of the KHL to sign with the Atlanta Thrashers. The problem with that was that on June 16, Kwiatkowski signed a two-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. In accordance with the "gentleman's agreement" between the NHL and the KHL the Thrashers shouldn't have signed him. KHL's president Medvedev even indicated that he would even go to war over the player.
The Thrashers did void the contract with Kwiatkowski. But a bit of due diligence on their part could have avoided the incident altogether.
But the aforementioned situation is nothing comparing to the battle over restricted free agents on both sides of the pond. While a lot of fans in North America might not care about Russian RFAs, they should.
We have a situation with Evgeni Dadonov, a young Russian prospect who is one of the best players on the Russian junior team. He was selected by the Florida Panthers 71st overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. After playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Russian Superleague and the KHL, the 20-year-old RFA decided to try his luck in the NHL and signed with the Panthers.
His Russian club started shouting: "Thieves!"
According to reports, Dadonov signed a two-year contract with his Russian club in May. Traktor's coach (and a formed NHL player) Andrei Nazarov told Sovetsky Sport: "There was no provision in Dadonov's contract allowing him to go to the NHL..."
The real question, though, is whether Dadonov signed a contract. Nazarov said he did "because he is a young player and was required to sign the contract."
There are also two other young Russian prospects who might want to play in North America Red Army's Denis Parshin and Sergei Shirokov. The two players are also RFAs in Russia. In order to avoid a conflict with the KHL, the two players filed a suit in Russia asking the court to declare them free agents with the opportunity to move to another club.
Another former NHL player and a current CSKA general manager, Sergei Nemchinov, told Sovetsky Sport that "the main document of the KHL is its Regulations, which prescribe that the two players have to sign new contracts with their club."
The court agreed with Nemchinov and the KHL.
In the NHL, an RFA with a qualifying offer may leave his team and go and play in another league (not another team). Once the player files for arbitration, his decision to play in another league vests in the hands of his team; if the club accepts the contract awarded at arbitration, the player has to stay.
This is what we have with Jiri Hudler(notes), who filed for arbitration BEFORE he signed a contract with KHL's Dynamo Moscow. Detroit, of course, can walk away and Hudler may still play in Russia. But if the Red Wings don't, or trade Hudler's rights to another team willing to offer the contract awarded at arbitration, Hudler will have to come back.
The KHL agrees with this reasoning and have not ratified Hudler's Russian contract.
Things are done different in the KHL regarding RFAs. An RFA must sign a qualifying offer from his team. No arbitration. A player remains an RFA in Russia until he is 28. There is a "way out": Paying a third of the contract "price" to his KHL team.
But who wants to do that?
KHL is trying to market itself as an international league. But the norms of international law must be followed by the KHL. Employment contracts must always have the beginning and the end. Interminable employment contract should not exist the way they do in the KHL. Both sides should be able to end the contract. A player should not be forced to sign a qualifying offer and remain with his team until he is 28. He should be able to walk away and play in another league (not another team) if he wishes.
In cases of Dadonov, Parshin and Shirokov their Russian teams want to bind them to a contract they don't want. If it were the NHL, the player would be able to opt out of the qualifying offers, not file for arbitration and leave for another league.
The argument of compensation for nurturing young players does not hold water because the regulation applies to all RFA's in the KHL. Two young very prospective Swedish kids -- Linus Omark (drafted by Edmonton in 2007, 97th overall) and Johan Harju (drafted by Lightning in 2007, 167th overall) -- signed with Dynamo Moscow earlier this year. This means that they too won't be able to play in the NHL until they are 28 (or if they pay a "compensation" to their KHL club).
International league following international law? Not so much.
The stream of young talent coming from Europe may be reduced by the KHL regulations regarding contractual obligations of restricted free agents if the NHL agrees with it. In cases of Dadonov, it is obvious that they do not.
Appealing to the IIHF is not going to do any good. Let's not forget that this organization is run part-time by a dentist who is probably better served doing root canals than getting to the root of the disagreement between the two most powerful forces in world hockey. The IIHF reminds me of the League of Nations: It's there but has no real power. It depends too much on the money from sponsors, including Russian oil-dollars, to hold their tournaments in Europe.
If the NHL and the KHL are to agree on the transfer agreement, it has to be between them.
Some KHL Notes you may have missed:
• Dynamo Moscow are waiting for Max Afinogenov, formerly of the Buffalo Sabres, to accept their offer. Afinogenov will start getting ready for the season with Dynamo on July 23, but wants to explore his options in the NHL before accepting the agreement with the KHL club.
• Dmitry Kalinin joined Viktor Kozlov(notes) and Alexander Radulov(notes) in Ufa and will play for Salavat Yulaef. Kirill Kabanov, who is predicted to go high in next year's NHL draft, will also play in Ufa next year.