Saturday, July 12, 2008

If That is the Case Then

Don't you just love it when people are all too predictable? As soon as the NHL and IIHF members announced an agreement to honor and respect signed contracts that the clock started on who would be the first to break the agreement.

Even better was that every single person polled pointed their fingers at the Russian KHL and the only question was going to be how long before they broke the agreement.

The only thing that nobody expected was that it would be not even out of the building when the NHL though VP Bill Daly was informed that Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the said KHL announced the signing of Alexander Radulov formerly of the Nashville Predators.

Never mind that Radulov still has a year remaining on his contract with the Preds but why let details stand in the way when you can hide behind technicalities as KHL President Alexander Medvedev is trying to do in order to defend this signing.

As Jeff Klein reported over at the New York Times Slap Shot blog that KHL President Alexander Medvedev said yesterday that the “existing gentleman’s agreement” worked out between the NHL, KHL and IIHF in Zurich on Thursday “is not backed by documents,” allowing Alexander Radulov to leave his Nashville contract and go to Salavat Yulaev Ufa because no international agreement had yet been signed when Radulov made his move.

Mevedev said the agreement would be signed “in two or three days, probably Monday,” and that once it is signed, it will “not be retroactive.” Radulov’s move to Salavat is “a situation not subject to dispute,” said Medvedev, who represented the KHL at the Zurich meeting.

The Zurich protocol, Medvedev said, “does not apply” to Radulov.

Well if that is the case why is Glen Sather not on a plane to Russia to sign Alexei Cherepanov before that agreement is signed? Really since the Russians have decided that until both sides sign the agreement it does not count then the Rangers should take full advantage of the rules set by the Russians themselves.

In fact Medvedev himself said that there was a 24 hour window for players with contracts to sign elsewhere as Klein was kind enough to provide a translated transcript that shows Medvedev saying:

"Other Players with contracts have 24 hours to sign agreements in North America. Soon the situation where anyone can leave. and we can invite anyone, will become impossible."

Hey but why stop at just Cherepanov? Why not also target some of Russia's better players and try to get them signed before the "documents" are signed. If anyone who actually believes that just because there is a signed agreement that the Russian KHL will abide by it is only fooling themselves.

In reality we know that Sather is barred by the CBA and NHL By-laws from going after Cherepanov and others but does anyone think for a second that a document with keep the KHL from trying to raid the NHL, today or tomorrow?

Ranger fans saw firsthand how the Avangard Omsk General Manager Bardin respected the contract the Rangers had with Jagr. Now we see an actual player who has a full year remaining on his contract being lured to Russia.

For their part the IIHF is not very happy about what is happening here as they must be embarrassed by what happened here. They worked very hard to get everyone to agree to an agreement that protected everyone and put an end to possible contract tampering.

The IIHF though there spokesman Szymon Szemberg called upon the KHL to reject this contract saying the signing was "a flagrant breach of the agreement." Szemberg also was quoted as saying “The IIHF will tell the KHL to not allow this contract according to what all the parties agreed to (Thursday)."

We have gotten to know the folks at the IIHF over the last couple of years and they are very honorable people who truly have the best interests of the game at heart. Nobody works harder at trying to find agreements that are fair to all parties than the folks at the IIHF.

The Russians though Medvedev claim that they will abide by what the IIHF lawyers decide but also left open the possibility of challenging whatever decision is made in court. Want to wager that he meant a Russian court?

There is one weapon the NHL has to use and they must use it to enforce any agreement signed with the Russians or IIHF. We have noticed one repeated concern from the Russians when it comes to anything and that is the 2014 Olympics.

The 2010 games are being held in Canada in Vancouver but the 2014 games are a totally different story. Those games are being held in Russia in the city of Sochi. It is dirty pool but what choice does the NHL really have to enforce any signed agreement?

In all honesty, common sense says that when the smoke clears that Radulov will not return to the Predators to finish his contract out. Would you want a player who does not want to play for you? One who clearly will be very unhappy going from a reported 6 million tax free dollars to his entry level 984,000.

Imagine what a Radulov is going to feel like if he is forced to return to Nashville to play? The Preds have lost his services no matter what so at best the Preds can do is come to some sort of understanding as to compensation with the KHL.

If anything Ranger fans should be watching this and realize that the fistfuls of cash the Russians can throw at Cherepanov will blow any Ranger offer out of the water. If Cherepanov does not come over to North America it will not be because the Rangers did not try to sign Cherepanov.

With the Rangers limited in how much they can offer Cherepanov because of the CBA but that is not something that the Russians have to worry about. It will be very unfair of Ranger fans if they blame the Rangers if they can not sign Cherepanov.

Simply put yourself in the Ranger's shoes and ask what else besides playing in the NHL could the Rangers offer that the Russians could not top? The best right now that the Rangers can do is hope that when the NHL and IIHF does come to a real Player Transfer Agreement that the Rangers will continue to hold the rights to Cherepanov.

Once Cherepanov turns 25 then the Rangers will not be limited to how much they can offer Cherepanov so it might also work out for the Rangers. By then the Rangers will know whether Cherepanov would be worth it as his development as a player will be almost complete.

However until that time all Ranger fans can really do is wait and wait some more. It is clear that the KHL is not playing fair but what can the Rangers do other than hope that the KHL spends themselves into bankruptcy.

It is either that or the Rangers now have less than 24 hours before the Russians sign that "document" and sign Cherepanov to a contract for next year now before the agreement goes into effect.

Wonder how well that would sit with the KHL President?

(Cherepanov picture courtesy of the Avangard Omsk)

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