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TSN.ca: NHL and Russia angry over player battles

Russian clubs are furious over the loss of players like Evgeni Malkin, reigning Calder Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Alexander Frolov, etc. to the NHL without what they deem to be acceptable compensation. Malkin's case isn't the first one, just the splashiest one, and I remember the year Stanislav Chistov and...someone else (who played briefly for one of the Florida teams) trying to come over the same season, with Russia trying to claim military duty owed as ways to prevent them from making the jump.

The article also touches on the opposite flow, that of Russians (and some other Europeans), especially RFAs, jumping the NHL ship to go and play for the Russian Super League, citing playing time, compensation, and/or contract structure as the reasons why they're leaving. And some GMs, like Tampa's Jay Feaster, are furious about it.

I love the NHL, but you know what? Kudos to those players. Now that the NHL is up and running again (*), I think the players should go where they're going to be happy. If they get the money, contract lenghth, and/or playing time and responsibility that they want out of the RSL, SEL (Sweden), or hell, even the British League (sorry, Kez, but you know it doesn't compare in stature to the other two :) than they get out of the NHL, then they should go there.

Although I can sympathize with the NHL teams who do put time, effort, and money into players like Eugeni Artukhin, how is that any different than Metallurg or Dynamo's time, effort, and money going into Malkin or Ovechkin? And with the new era of the salary cap, how can you blame a guy for not wanting to take more than the $600K you offered here because you can't afford to give him more because you threw $20 million, or nearly half your payroll, at only *three* players?

The Sharks have their own experience with this. Winger Alexander Korolyuk played for the Sharks for several seasons before going back to Russia and playing a year (2002-2003), returning for one season (2003-2004), then going back to Russia during the lockout and hasn't been back since. There was hope and speculation that he could be lured back to San Jose this year to fill the left wing on Joe Thornton's line, but given that he's not here, it apparently fell through. Doug Wilson made an interesting comment at the State of the Sharks: "We're in discussions with Alex, but he's compensated very well for playing over there."

A columnist in The Hockey News this latest issue observed that he wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of backlash within the NHLPA occuring sometime down the road from what I (and maybe he) referred to as the "salary bottom feeders"--the guys making close to league minimum ($475K/season)--against the elite players pulling down six, seven, eight million a year. With the salary cap in place, it means one guy sucking up 20% of the payroll leaves less for the other 22 players to make. Get a few players making that much (see: the aforementioned Tampa Bay Lightning), and you get a roster peopled with a bunch of guys making near that minimum. I'm not quite sure what that backlash will take the form of, but y'know? In a unionized environment, I could see it happening.

And then there is the RSL, waving some nice contracts at them to come, join us, we'll give you more ice time and more money...

Kind of an interesting dynamic, in my opinion, and I kind of see it as natural competition cropping up threatening the NHL's perception of itself as a monopoly. And I think it's healthy.

So Feaster? Quit whining.

(*) - I was *not* happy about the big name NHL players going over and playing in Europe last year during the lockout, because of the whole nature of the lockout. I thought it was criminal of the players to cry foul over the desire for a salary cap and then go over and play for way less money than they were fighting for from the NHL owners, and consequently putting the European players who would normally occupy those roster spots out of work.

And to cut off possible arguements, I had slightly more sympathy for the "salary bottom feeders", like Rob Davison, who did play in Europe during the lockout. They couldn't necessarily afford to not work, like, say, Joe Thornton.

 

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