Catch Me If You Can

Alexander Radulov took the money and bolted, enjoying a much lucrative contract from Ufa while the NHL, KHL, and IIHF attempted to sort out the mess. The Predators, who own Radulov’s rights, announced yesterday that they have suspended their young winger indefinitely without pay (not that it really bothers him any).

Radulov’s sudden departure left a sour taste in the NHL and Nashville’s mouths and have cried foul over Alexander Medvedev‘s dealings, but once again the IIHF lacks any real teeth in either league and the KHL doesn’t feel pressure to return Radulov to the NHL, where he has one year remaining on his contract.

It was reported that Medvedev had offered the NHL $250k as compensation for losing Radulov, the same amount that the NHL used to pay the RSL for players, but Gary Bettman and Bill Daly apparently scoffed at the deal. Ufa and the KHL don’t feel pressured to return Radulov to the NHL. As a league they face no real consequences, and it’s only Radulov who has suffered, being suspended from international competitions sanctioned by the IIHF. The IIHF cannot penalize Ufa or the KHL.

It seems as though Medvedev won this round. But what about in the future? Lyle Richardson, aka “Spector,” has noted that it does set a precedent for all future international player movements, as well as potential consequences for fledgling Russian league. Medvedev may have won this little battle, but in the long run, who wins? It’s interesting that it is Medvedev, not the NHL, that is pushing harder for a transfer agreement. Not only have they “stole” a NHL player, but is also asking the IIHF to side with them on the matter while pushing for a new transfer agreement. Talk about conflict of interest.

Even if the IIHF sides with the NHL (which I think they will), the KHL has every right to ignore its ruling. However, I don’t think Medvedev is stupid enough to do that. He should realize that if he ignores the IIHF’s ruling, it would be close to impossible to broker a new transfer agreement. No one wants to do business with a guy who will pull the carpet out from under you.

However, should the IIHF side with the KHL, it means that we should see more players jumping ship – the borderline NHLers, the aging European veteran, or more importantly, the occasional big name. This doesn’t only apply to Russians, but all Europeans. Many Swedish players have been noted to have a desire to finish their playing careers back home, and the Radulov precedent could mean that these players could jump ship, with year(s) remaining on their NHL contracts, and go home to finish their careers. However, keep in mind that the KHL is the only league that can offer NHL-type salaries. The average salary in the SEL, according to 2001-02 estimates, is about $100k/year. Top flight players may get anywhere from 250k to 300k/year.

Whatever may be the case, the NHL is still the best hockey league in the world and Radulov just jumped ship for a quick fix. Needless to say, I don’t think he’ll be back in the NHL anytime soon, and even if he does, it most definitely won’t be in a Predator uniform.