The agreement between the NHL and IIHF on player exchanges has expired. The free market reigns. What does it all mean?
Some say nothing—the lure of the buck, they reason, has always brought over all the bona fide stars and always will. I disagree, particularly where Russia is concerned. I think you’re going to see individual owners (read: oligarchs) in the Russian Super League become aggressively protective of their young stars, using a combination of cash incentives and financial bulwarks to fight the departure of players they previously would have lost for a measly 200,000 greenbacks.
The landscape has changed folks. The days of treating Russia as the OHL are over. These are genuine pro leagues, with decent (albeit drunker) crowds, paying real dollars. Any player worth a $200,000 transfer fee to an NHL team is probably worth that or more to his home club. So if NHL owners want these players, they’ll have to offer either huge salaries, or richer buyouts to the clubs. Even then they may face shady tactics, given the pliability of Russian law these days …
If you doubt me, consider the worries surrounding the young Russian power forward, Kirill Petrov, in advance of this week’s NHL entry draft (scroll about halfway down in this piece). He’s a top-5 pick by talent alone, but some figure he might not go until the end of Round 1.