Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Aftermath of Russian Refusal

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking
Vladislav Tretiak: Just Say Nyet

As you might expect, the reaction in the Russian media, on the day after the NHL - IIHF transfer agreement was given its last refusal from the principals involved, has been boisterous, though mixed. The hardliners who opposed the ratification are applauding Vladislav Tretiak for finally seeing things their way (Gennady Velichkin: "This is the first time I've been happy with Tretiak in months"). Others are a bit more somber, predicting that the Russian teams-- having got what they wanted-- will soon find themselves on the short end of the stick after all.

First, a column by Sport Express journalist Pavel Strijevsky revealed that Tretiak is currently in the United States (exactly what for, he doesn't say), and that, all along, Tretiak had the authority to sign the transfer agreement on his own. However, as Strijevsky put it, "The reality is that Tretiak's unlimited authority in making the decision could only be defined by example, and without the support of the Russian clubs, the agreement with the NHL would be smashed to smithereens before the ink would have a chance to dry."

However, there seem to be a number of ways for Russian players to legally make the jump to the NHL if they want to, and Russia's rejection of the transfer agreement is providing the impetus to put those ways into use. Already, reports from Russia are bemoaning a forthcoming "two week exodus", whereby players will start leaving on their own in bunches, starting two weeks from now.

It has been hinted at in the past, if not openly confirmed, that Russian labor law allows hockey players to leave their team upon two weeks' notice, just like an ordinary company employee. It wouldn't have mattered much in this case, because as of last summer, Gary Bettman had forbidden the NHL teams from negotiating with any players under contract with a Russian team... until now, it seems, as a number of teams and players are preparing to give the "two weeks' notice" option a try, with the full approval of the NHL.

Said the NHL's Bill Daly, in a statement that practically declares open season on star players in the Russian Super League (quote taken from today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review): "If the player can secure his own release, either pursuant to the terms of his existing Russian contract or pursuant to applicable Russian law, NHL clubs will be free to sign such player, and the resulting NHL contract will be registered and approved as valid for play in the NHL."

Obviously, there is now talk from Russia of changing their labor laws in order to close this loophole, and fast, while in the meantime trying to use the courts to keep their players from breaking any contracts. IIHF president Rene Fasel is one of the people who thinks closing the loophole won't help the Russian teams in the long run keep their top young players from leaving, anyway; once the labor laws are changed, these players will just start signing short-term contracts. Said Fasel, in a interview that appeared today in Sport Express, "The consequences of such a prohibition are already known (from looking at the other European leagues). None of the talented 17-to-18-year-old prospects who have hopes of playing in the NHL someday are willing to sign long-term contracts with their European clubs. Their agents absolutely forbid them to do so. That makes their departure only a matter of time."

Fasel also addressed Bettman's threat to withhold Russian NHL players from joining Team Russia at the 2007 IIHF World Championships, saying, "The success of any World Championships, in many respects, relies on each team having its best players. I will make it my duty to insure equal conditions, with which Russia will be able to compete with Canada, Sweden, Finland, and the remaining countries."

According to more than one official quoted today in the Russian press, the Russians fear that one of the ways the NHL may try to block Russian players from participating in next spring's World Championships (which usually take place in May, during the Stanley Cup Playoffs) is to have non-playoff teams to send their Russian players down to the AHL, if their AHL affiliate is still participating in their own post-season.

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines
Andrei Taratukhin

With many NHL teams being rumored as ready to announce deals with Russian players immediately in the event the transfer agreement was ratified, now the speculation is rampant as to which of these players will be the first to use the available loopholes in order jump to the NHL.

Another article in Sport Express today quotes Andrei Taratukhin, who was drafted by the Calgary Flames in 2001 and had been intending to join the Flames this year, as saying, "According to my agreement, I must remain with Yaroslavl for one more year, and the head coach of Lokomotiv, Vladimir Yurzinov, recommends that I stay in Russia for another season. Nevertheless, I think I will leave for the NHL. The financial considerations aren't so important to me-- I will make the same amount of money with Lokomotiv as what Calgary has proposed to me. It's simply a matter of wanting to play in the best league in the world."

The same article says, "The top prospects will simply sign contracts with NHL teams. Malkin has already done this, and done it long ago. Taratukhin and (Alexei) Mikhnov (Edmonton Oilers) will most likely conclude agreements within a week."

By the way, I also found out (through a chart that's alongside the same article) that former Wolf Pack defenseman Maxim Kondratiev, traded by the Rangers to Anaheim during this past season, currently has an insurance contract with Lada Togliatti. Although I had heard rumors that Kondratiev (and Ducks goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, also) was considering joining his former Portland teammate Zenon Konopka by signing with Lada, this was the first official confirmation I'd seen of this.

I used to work in a fire hydrant factory-- you couldn't park anywhere near the place
Evgeni Malkin (#71): time to get the hell outta Dodge

Meanwhile, as far as how all of this relates to Evgeni Malkin, today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a very good article on this-- and in fact, they've been doing an exceptional job with staying on top of the Malkin/transfer agreement situation in recent weeks.

According to Malkin's North American agent, the Penguins are bringing Malkin over come hell or high water, and Malkin is one of the players who is exercising the "two week notice" loophole:

Despite the Russian Ice Hockey Federation's refusal to sign a deal that would allow its players to leave for the NHL, the Penguins and Evgeni Malkin's agent are opening contract negotiations, and the top prospect should be in the lineup on opening night.

"The (NHL) announced that clubs would be free to sign players given that (Russia has) not been able to agree to a transfer agreement, and, as a result, we're going to move ahead and negotiate with Pittsburgh," Malkin's agent, Don Meehan, said Wednesday. "That's a priority for us now."

Malkin is under contract to his Russian team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, through 2008. But a provision in Russian labor law allows employees to leave their jobs whether a contract exists or not after giving two weeks' written notice.

Malkin has already given such notice, Meehan said yesterday.

"We have followed the provision under that law, and we've given the appropriate notice," said Meehan, who said that he spoke with Penguins general manager Ray Shero yesterday. "Now, the next step after that would be to negotiate with Pittsburgh."


Blogger gsdgsd13 said...

Does Tretiak pose for these things? The guy is photogenic, in his own terrifying way.

8/4/06, 1:14 AM

Anonymous pack attack said...

Speaking of his photo I discovered a strange similarity -- photographically.

It must be a Russian thing --

8/4/06, 11:27 AM

Blogger Brushback said...

"The guy is photogenic, in his own terrifying way."

It's almost as if you read my mind with that comment.

I've got a Tretiak photo that I've been saving for the right time, from the cover of some Russian art magazine or something, and you'll be startled when you see it.

By the way, here's an easier link to Pack Attack's Russian thing.

8/4/06, 5:53 PM


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