Friday, July 11, 2008

Expect NHL to fight for Radulov

“We would view any signing, from either side, of a player under a valid contract, who does not have any legally valid out-clause, to be a clear violation of the mutual understanding and existing principle. It would potentially be punishable with suspended national team eligibility and suspension from all competition or activity organized by the IIHF or any IIHF member national association. This would include events like the Olympic Winter Games, the IIHF World Championship or international club competitions like the Champions Hockey League."
And that, in part, is why I don't expect that we'll see Alex Radulov play a game in Russia next season.

The NHL has flexed its muscle already, working out a transfer agreement yesterday that really only benefits the North American side. Under those terms, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has already asked that the Radulov deal be nullified.

Let's face it, there's not a great worry by the Continental Hockey League that its veteran players are about to be poached. What the Russian teams really want is compensation for when their top youngsters — like Blue Jackets prospect Nikita Filatov — sign overseas, and that wasn't part of what was hammered out.

Because Radulov has an NHL contract for another season, however, the NHL's in the right here, and unless Fasel was bluffing last month, the IIHF is about to throw the book at the young Russian. If faced with a potential ban from the 2010 Olympic Games, which Radulov would surely be a part of, my guess is he'll return to Nashville.

The question then, however, is what happens when his contract runs out on July 1, 2009.

It's clear from this Q&A over at FanHouse that Radulov is very interested in playing close to his hometown, Nizhny Tagil, which is only about 350 kilometres from Ufa. Nashville's a world away.

This idea that none of the game's young stars will choose to stay home is misguided, especially when the money, at least compared to an entry-level deal, is far better overseas.

NHLPA director Paul Kelly spoke yesterday to the potential benefits of having the KHL bid against the NHL for free agents going forward:
"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."
Underpaid for now, Radulov will command a contract in the neighbourhood of $4- to $4.5-million a season as an restricted free agent beginning in 2009-10, a deal that might be more difficult for the KHL to match. If money's not the issue, however, and he still wants to return home after 2008-09, there's very little the NHL can do about it.

Radulov's not Alex Ovechkin, but he is one of the league's up-and-coming stars. For now, however, he's got a contract, and it strikes me as exceedingly unlikely that he'll be allowed to breach it.

Even if the courts have to get involved.

UPDATE The Hockey News' Ken Campbell has a discussion with Radulov's agent.
.

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20 Comments:

At 2:42 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger The Forechecker said...

My question is, even if the Preds and the NHL successfully nullify this deal, how will Radulov return with a straight face to Nashville? This isn't like a restricted free agent who receives a hefty offer sheet and ends up returning, he specifically signed a new deal while still under contract to the Preds.

I'd also be interested to hear whether or not the Predators or the NHL will pursue anything relative to the agent in this case. For an NHLPA-certified agent to help a player skip out on an existing contract seems to be an ethical breach to say the least.

 
At 2:48 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger Joe said...

Honestly, I think the KHL wants to make a point, and their previous statements about what they think of the "play-nice" rule about respecting other league's contracts, when the NHL has never respected the contracts that Russia has had with its own stars, lead me to beleive that they want to poach from the NHL as well. The NHL has been taking Russia's top talent for years, whether its under contract or not, giving little to nothing in return. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if the KHL gives the NHL a giant one finger salute, in the form of poaching NHL players who are still under contract. And frankly, the world political climate being what it is, I wonder if the NHL, a United States based business, wouldn't lose that battle in the end. I could totally see Russia, believing they're right (and honestly, they may not be 100% right, but their complaints have merit), willing to get forced out of a couple of world events for the next couple years, until it blows over or public sentiment goes in favor of the KHL, and make that sacrifice in order to reestablish control of their hockey program.

 
At 2:49 PM, July 11, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Radulov is going to pass up multi-millions from a team in the Soviet league and honour his crappy contract in Crackertown so that he can still - maybe - play a half-dozen games of shinny in Vancouver a year from now?

Phhhht.

The world's largest multi-national oil companies can't even protect their interests from Soviet raiders. Does anyone really think the puny NHL will be able to stand up to billionaire oligarchs when they start throwing money around?

 
At 2:55 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

It depends what sort of a fight they want to put up here. Are they willing to sit out of IIHF competitions like the world championship, Olympics, etc? We aren't just talking about Radulov here.

Besides, he'll be earning big money in the NHL after one more year. Radulov knew the terms when he signed up.

 
At 3:06 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

So Radulov is going to pass up multi-millions from a team in the Soviet league and honour his crappy contract in Crackertown so that he can still - maybe - play a half-dozen games of shinny in Vancouver a year from now?

Phhhht.


You seem to be forgetting that that for many European players, even today, the Olympic gold is more important than the Stanley Cup.

 
At 3:13 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger Big Picture Guy said...

The Russians have a Winter Olympics coming up (2014), a project that is never and dear to Putin's heart. They won't want to be in disfavor with the IOC and IIHF over this. The question is whether Fasel has the cojones to back up his threats.

 
At 3:14 PM, July 11, 2008, Anonymous Schuster said...

It depends what sort of a fight they want to put up here. Are they willing to sit out of IIHF competitions like the world championship, Olympics, etc? We aren't just talking about Radulov here.

I think we are talking just about Radulov here. The Fasel comment is exactly about that.

 
At 3:22 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

If they intend to fight the agreement, the KHL will be after far more under contract players than just the one.

The Russian Hockey Federation is also closely aligned with the new league and could play a role here. Given they are an IIHF member organization, things could get tricky.

 
At 3:47 PM, July 11, 2008, Anonymous Bmac said...

What about Malkin? He snuck over and the NHL allowed him to play

 
At 3:54 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I don't think Malkin's Russian league contract signing was exactly above board.

 
At 4:11 PM, July 11, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fasel dropped the ball last season when guys like Salmelainen got to play with Finnish National team while he was under suspension from NHL after bolting Leafs.

He wasn't big enough fish to go after but by stopping him to do what he did it would have been a clear message to Radulov and others.

And I believe Russians themselves used couple of players that left NHL while still under contract to NHL teams.

There is also thing called Lex Jashin. NHL demanded that Jashin owed one more year to Senators and that's exactly what happened.

Why would Radulov get different rules. Meaning that if/when he returns to Nashville he has to play for the same amount he is now skipping.

You'd think NHL lawyers, dentist Fasel and other so called smart suits would remember these things if some anonymous sitting in his living room having a cold Bud can do it?

Keystone Kops?

 
At 4:21 PM, July 11, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Radulov wanted to play close to home so much that he decided to play with Quebec Remparts for pocket money, room and board.

If he just wanted to go home Nashville could've under current CBA assigned him to this Russian team and at the same time could've asked for little compensation to help in their legal bills with their "Boots joke".

I don't think Radulov ever asked Nashville to help him with his, hmm, home sickness. He just signed for better money without any contact with the organisation he has a valid deal with.

Ps. There's no reason to talk about poaching or stealing players. Only things that were done without players' concent happened in old Sovjet Union. Period.

Did Pittsburgh kidnap Malkin or did he come to Steeltown on his own will?

 
At 4:23 PM, July 11, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Radulov said that he contacted Nashville about that offer and asked what they gonna do about it. They answered "we'll call you" and never did. So there was something brewing on between Radulov and Trotsky's office. Medvedev just said that after signing before or by Monday all the contracts will be honoured. But neither Filatov's or Radulov's because it happened earlier. He also said Voinov has 24 hours to sign with LA.

 
At 5:05 PM, July 11, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Russians have a Winter Olympics coming up (2014), a project that is...dear to Putin's heart. They won't want to be in disfavor with the IOC and IIHF over this. The question is whether Fasel has the cojones to back up his threats.

Oh, man, that seals it. Some Swiss Army knife carrying suit in the IIHF office is going to tell Comrade Putin that the Soviets aren't allowed to play in their own Olympic hockey tournament????

My gut aches from ironic laughter.

The New Soviet Union is run by a small group of men with a lot of money. Not Boots Delbaggio money. Real, actual money. Petro-dollars. Without the corresponding rule of law that might help enforce contracts.

Soviet oil money will trump the NHL/PA's collective bargaining agreement.

The Soviets. Teaching North American lawyers, stock manipulators, cable barons, monopolists and assorted douchebags, about unfettered capitalism.

Beautiful.

 
At 7:31 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger Big Picture Guy said...

KHL club lacks money

YEKATERINBURG, Russia – Yekaterinburg hoped to have major league hockey back in town for the first time since the wild ‘90s but their team Avtomobilist, one of four expansion teams in the Russian KHL, has announced a possible withdrawal due to lack of funds.
Papunin also wrote in the letter that financial obligations to players of about 200 million rubles ($8.5m) could lead to bankruptcy of the club.

Ah, the mighty KHL. Maybe Radulov will lend them the money.

 
At 8:54 PM, July 11, 2008, Anonymous SS said...

I think it's safe to assume the IIHF won't do anything. In any event, I think the NHL has got a pretty simple solution to all this:

1) I don't think they should try to get the contract revoked. It doesn't do Nashville any good to have him on their roster for one more year when they know he wants out.

2) Radulov should be prohibited from playing in the NHL ever again. The financial viability of the KHL is far from certain and a young player would be taking a huge risk by cutting off any future NHL options. This won't prevent a guy like Jagr from leaving, but young guys leaving are a much bigger concern, IMO.

3) Nashville should receive a compensatory draft pick (#31 pick or so). The compensatory pick could be determined on a case-by-case basis (decided by a committee or something).

This is definitely a game-changer from a team's perspective when it comes to drafting Russian players. Even if you get around the existing contract issues, a team is not going to want to only have a player for the duration of an entry level contract. I think it was always assumed that the top atheletes will always want to play against the top competition in front of the big crowds, but this is the first indication that it might not always be the case.

 
At 10:44 AM, July 12, 2008, Anonymous Kraftster said...

Doc,

The issue I have with most of the commentary on this issue is the apparent idea that a court can and will force Radulov to play hockey for the Predators this coming season. While Radulov would be in breach of his contract by not showing up to play in September, the Preds are probably looking at being forgiven from their obligation to pay as there only real remedy there.

Additionally, if Radulov sought to play on a different NHL team, the Preds could probably seek an injunction to prevent him from playing for that team.

However, actually getting a court order forcing Radulov to play for the Predators seems speculative at best in my opinion.

With all that being said, I guess the major question then becomes, could the Predators get an injunction against Radulov playing for Ufa in Russia. We have some basis for knowing what arbiters think of Russian players coming to play in the NHL while under contract there, but, I don't know if there are really any cases out there dealing with the reverse situation. Being that I'd think the Predators would be forced to sue Ufa/Radulov in a Russian court of law, I can't really venture a guess on how that would turn out...

Bottom line I guess, I think there are some legal limitations here that are being glossed over by most of the coverage.

 
At 11:34 AM, July 12, 2008, Blogger Big Picture Guy said...

kraftser,
The IIHF release on Radulov's contract suggests that a "feasible" solution is for the player to negotiate a release (as in the Frogren case). Negotiate means "buyout" here and I think that's the best the Predators can hope for, although it probably would mean giving up future rights to Radulov.
In spite of the sneering on this board, the IIHF does have one powerful sanction it can use vs. Salavat Yulaev Ufa, kicking them out of the Champions League. That would be a significant financial loss for the club and blow a big hole in their schedule as those games are spread throughout the season.
Of course, as you point out, no one can be "forced" to honor an employment contract in the US.

 
At 1:04 PM, July 12, 2008, Anonymous Kraftster said...

Big Picture Guy,

I really do think that the best chance Nashville/NHL have at not "losing" Radulov this season will be from IIHF action. My basic point was that if this situation gets to the point where it becomes a court issue (be it American or Russian), Radulov is likely gone.

Potential IIHF sanctions against Ufa or Radulov himself (I recall reading something regarding his eligibility for international play) are definitely the most powerful option available here. Most reports you read on this story talk about the "NHL" fighting back. While the NHL can fight in a realistic way by seeking such IIHF sanctions, any legal recourse the NHL may have will likely come up rather empty.

 
At 11:49 AM, July 13, 2008, Anonymous Schuster said...

BigPictureGuy,

"That would be a significant financial loss for the club and blow a big hole in their schedule" may not be entirely accurate. Even if Ufa goes all the way, we're talking about approx 5-6 home games. Not a huge hole.

The financial loss is significant if we assume that they'd win the whole thing. Otherwise, again, we're talking about a million dollars, tops.

 

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