Hockey Headlines

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

KHL Rules For NHL Players

With the chances of an NHL lockout getting more and more realistic with every passing hour, the image to the left of Vincent Lecavalier in an Ak Bars Kazan uniform could happen again. During the last lockout, there were a few Russian SuperLeague teams that went out and stocked the cupboards with NHL players, and the power in the SuperLeague shifted greatly with the NHL players. The KHL sent a memo to its teams today, and it appears that they want to keep the balance between teams with the new rules issued to its teams.

From what it appears, the rules sent to the KHL clubs today will come into effect in the event that the NHL officially locks out the players. If they do, the "amendment will cover players with existing NHL contracts, excluding those with two-way NHL contracts who are consigned by their clubs to lower (minor) league teams for the duration of the lockout". So there's your first rule: players must be on one-way contracts only.

The official memo sent by KHL Hockey Operations Vice-President Vladimir Shalaev read as follows:
Our clubs have been granted the opportunity to enter into contracts and place on their main rosters no more than three (3) NHL players, and the previously established limit of 25 players per team may be exceeded by the addition of these players. For Russian clubs, only one of the three NHL players may be a foreigner (non-Russian), and this player must meet one of the following criteria set down to ensure that only top-level foreign players come to play in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Criteria for foreign players signed by KHL clubs from NHL:

  • Has played no fewer than 150 games in the NHL over the last three seasons
  • Has experience of playing in the KHL
  • Represented his country at one of the last two IIHF World Championships, World Junior Championships or the Olympics
  • Is a Stanley Cup winner, a Stanley Cup finalist, or a winner of one of the individual prizes awarded by the NHL at the close of their season
KHL clubs based in countries other than Russia may sign more than one foreign player among the maximum three NHL players. Further, the above criteria for foreign players will not apply to KHL clubs based outside Russia.

In the event of a lockout in the NHL, the maximum number of foreign players on any one KHL club will therefore rise from five to six players. The limit of five foreign players named in the roster for a given KHL game remains in force, as does the maximum of one foreign goaltender per club.

The wages paid to NHL players signed during the lockout will not count towards a KHL clubs' salary cap. However, the wages paid to the NHL player must not exceed 65% of the player's wages as stipulated in his NHL contract for this season.

"The term of the contracts signed with NHL players must run until April 30th of next year, i.e. to the end of the 2012-13 season,” Vladimir Shalaev added. “However, the contract must contain a clause allowing immediate unilateral termination when the NHL lockout is resolved. Naturally, no compensation will be paid for such a termination of contract. The KHL Central Information Bureau will be the determining agency regarding the sporting rights to NHL players with regard to KHL clubs, and the clubs have the right to alter and amend such rights in accordance with current KHL Regulations. The Regulations governing players' medical, health, and life insurance apply in full to NHL players signed during the lockout, but clubs may purchase additional insurance at their own discretion.”
Wow. That pretty guarantees that no less than half of the NHLPA can be signed by any of the KHL teams this season. Any player who has appeared in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, any player who has won or been nominated for an NHL award, any player who has averaged 50 games per season over the last year, or any player has participated in an IIHF event narrows it down to approximately 700 of the NHLPA's 900 members.

We assume that the KHL is hunting for stars, but these rules would allow players like Brian McGrattan, Cam Janssen, and Daniel Carcillo to be eligible to be signed by teams in the KHL. I'm not saying that these players wouldn't be effective players to some degree, but a team like Vityaz Chekhov are already on thin ice for dressing a team with a large number of goons. What would stop them from signing these three players to continue their idea of intimidation through fisticuffs? All of them fit into the criteria above - Carcillo has played the required games and appeared as a Stanley Cup finalist in 2010; Janssen has the required number of games and was a finalist with New Jersey last season; and, McGrattan has played enough games and appeared in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals with the Ottawa Senators.

The notion that these rules would make it easier to only have top-tier stars join the KHL is certainly true, but there would be a vast number of non-star players who would slip through the cracks if they wanted. If they gain a contract in the KHL, good for them, but I'm pretty sure that's not the intention of Vladimir Shalaev's memo.

While I doubt that any KHL team is going to beef up through the employment of goons only, a number of good, young players will be excluded from playing in the KHL because of these rules. A player such as Corey Crawford - penciled in as the Blackhawks' starting goaltender - has only played 122 NHL games to date, hasn't been in a Stanley Cup Final game, has not been an NHL award finalist, and has not appeared in an IIHF game. Crawford is the future for Chicago, but he can't play in the AHL because of his contract, and he can't play in the KHL. He might be able to get into the Swedish Elite League, but Crawford is literally stuck in limbo because of these new KHL rules. If you're looking for talent, would you rather have Crawford or Carcillo as one of your NHL players?

Look, I get that the star players will go to Russia and play for whatever team which with they can find employment. But the rules implemented by the KHL really exclude only a handful of good, young players who haven't been given the opportunity to suit up for their country in international play. That seems dumb, doesn't it? Especially when you know that Raffi Torres, Daniel Carcillo, and Cam Janssen all have the opportunity to suit up?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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