Sunday, September 14, 2008

The KHL: Where bad contracts go to die

As the Predators awaited resolution over Alexander Radulov's bolt to join Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, word came last week that Marcus Nilson, under contract with the Flames for 2008-09 at $1 million, is attempting to hook on with the vaunted Red Army squad.

By the sound of things, the Flames won't object, since the 30-year-old Nilson really doesn't factor into their plans.
"We were hoping to do this quietly," Nilson's agent, J.P. Barry, told the Calgary Sun. "The Flames are being good about this."
It's a pretty interesting twist, really. A young star like Alex Radulov bolts for more money to return to Russia and the NHL stirs up an international incident, while the unwanted are "quietly" encouraged to break their deals and sign overseas.

So much for mistakes coming back to haunt teams under the salary cap.

The Flames waived Nilson in June before free agency even opened, when it was unlikely his $1-million deal would find a home given all of the available talent. Calgary is one of a handful of teams that needs to clear cap space, and an apparent move toward stashing a few veterans in the minors is an easy way to free that up.

It's an even better situation for the club if it can get away without paying the cash at all, which will be the case if Nilson signs in Russia.

Heck, we've already seen that situation play out this summer with Vitaly Vishnevski and the Devils. The good ol' KHL will save GM Lou Lamoriello an incredible $3.6-million over the next two seasons.

Quietly, mind you.

For all the talk of the sanctity of an NHL contract, one would think that the league would mandate unwanted players be bought out of their deals rather than pushed to slink out the back door and not look back.

I'm a bit surprised we haven't heard from the NHLPA in these situations.

"It was a difficult year for Marcus and what we're doing now is try to make sure he doesn't go through another like that," Barry said. "The Flames are being very good about all this. They want what's best for Marcus, too."

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At 9:48 a.m., September 14, 2008, Anonymous PPP said...

This is absolute bullshit. Meanwhile, the Leafs are on the hook for Tucker and Raycroft for the next two decades and they had to take salary back for McCabe when they could have just tied them onto an Aeroflot flight to Moscow and pretended that their contracts were never signed.

Of course the biggest cheater in the league Loophole Lou is driving a Mac truck through this one.

At 10:13 a.m., September 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ppp: you might have a "homer point" if McCabe and Raycroft actually wanted to go to the KHL. the leafs werent looking to be competitive anyway in their mad dash to get a top pick to rebuild. having this money clogging up their cap just helps them suck for a while instead of taking on other bad contracts to cripple a rebuild with more bad decisions like Jeff Finger.

At 10:33 a.m., September 14, 2008, Anonymous Ebscer said...

The NHLPA won't care as this just frees up more cap room to pay their members more, and the owners don't care because this saves them money versus having to buy out these contracts.

The current arrangement is not good for the game itself, but there is no financial incentive to change it.

At 11:36 a.m., September 14, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

I heard about this late in the week when Randy Sportak had it in the Sun. I guess the idea is that the Flames "assign" Nilson in exchange for a transfer fee that covers the cost of his NHL contract. I've heard of players being assigned to European leagues before (especially in TC when there's a lot of Euro prospects being sent out), but never for money: this looks basically like a loophole to allow under-the-table soccer-style transfers.

And Mr. Dupont: The difference between this and Radulov is that Nashville wants to keep Radulov. The Flames have no interest in retaining Nilson, and are more than happy to send him to CSKA if that's what he wants and his Russian club wants.

At 12:12 p.m., September 14, 2008, Blogger Brooklyn Hockey Boy said...

Well, just when we thought the NHL finally had a collective mind on something, they ruin it for us. What kind of "professional business owners" vehemntly object to one action while secretly allowing a similar action for ridiculous reasons such as a player "not fitting with the teams plans"? This is plain messed up.

At 3:10 p.m., September 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure what's objectionable, here.

NHL owner saves cash. Player willingly changes addresses. Soviets get their player.

Whether Nilson played in Calgary, the AHL or Kazakstan, his cap hit still counts, no?

Nashville, on the other hand, wanted Radulov and had him under contract.

Totally different circumstances.

At 3:41 p.m., September 14, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Whether Nilson played in Calgary, the AHL or Kazakstan, his cap hit still counts, no?

No, completely incorrect. Only if he plays in Calgary will his salary count against the cap.

At 3:51 p.m., September 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to CBA NHL club has to pay player's salary even if he is assigned to European leagues. European team can compensate NHL club but actual salary has to be paid by NHL club.
But there's a way around this. You waive player and send him to minors. Then he is off your cap but club still responsible for his salary.
Now NHL club can assign (with player's permission) him to Europe but according to CBA NHL club still has to pay player's salary.
But if some KHL team sends NHL club similiar money it's a wash.
That's not good enough sometimes because now player has to pay Canadian/US taxes instead of getting by with Russia's 13% flat tax.
How to go around this obstacle? NHL and IIHF has no agreement at this moment. Nilson just signs with KHL team and Calgary suspends him... everybody is happy.
However, if Calgary is being good with Nilson camp it doesn't sound like they would suspend him when he leaves, right?
Accoridng to CBA Calgary then has to pony up or they'll get a call from NHL/NHLPA.
This is interesting situation since there's Lex Jashin, too. If you don't fulfill your obligations towards NHL club you owe it to NHL club later.
If Nilson signs with KHL team (like Radulov) without Calgary's written concent he owes Calgary one year at 1M. Yes, he'll get that signature in a heart beat but then Calgary has to pay his salary according to the CBA.
NHL has not been consistent at all and this might blow up at some point.
Somebody is going to take action at some point. It could be individual player like Nilson after his career is done. He could state that he wants to return to NHL and he still owes Calgary one year at 1M. And Jashin and Gandler could testify that this is what happened to them.
And how about players who left North America last season and were suspended by NHL club?
Tony Salmelainen left Marlies and JFJ suspended him. Salmelainen went to KHL and was forgotten. Now he plays for IIHF sanctioned team in Switzerland and everything is ok. Would that be possible if NHL and IIHF had a transfer agreement?
There's loopholes but there's also situations where CBA has not been followed and that's a concern.
What happens when Ovechkin or Crosby decides to see life in European hockey. Can you stop them? When you've been so careless with these lesser players?
How about Radulov coming back to NHL in 2-3 years? He should play with money he was supposed to play for this year.
Bettman and Kelly should really look at this situation before it's egg in their face.

At 6:18 p.m., September 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm no lawyer but doesn't contract law allow for contracts to be changed when both parties agree to the change?xz

At 10:02 p.m., September 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm no lawyer but doesn't contract law allow for contracts to be changed when both parties agree to the change?xz"

I don't think club and player can do anything which isn't in the CBA. NHL and NHLPA can change terms but not individual clubs and players.

At 12:18 a.m., September 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, completely incorrect. Only if he plays in Calgary will his salary count against the cap.

If that's the case, then the salary cap is a complete farce.

Good thing we sacrificed a year of hockey to fix things.

At 5:15 p.m., September 15, 2008, Anonymous David Staples said...

Kudos to Darryl Sutter for once again displaying the kind of Out-Of-The-Box strategic thinking that makes him one of the top general managers in hockey today.


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