Russian federation refuses to sign player transfer deal

Updated: August 2, 2005, 2:28 PM ET
Associated Press

GENEVA -- The Russian hockey federation refused to sign the player transfer agreement between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation, a move the sport's governing body said could jeopardize the NHL's participation at the 2006 Olympics.

The Russians -- the only European federation to reject the deal between the IIHF and the NHL -- didn't sign because their clubs unanimously rejected it at a meeting Monday.

"We do not yet consider the matter closed," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We are hopeful to be able to sit down with the Russian federation in the next several days to discuss whatever concerns they might have in entering into a new agreement."

IIHF president Rene Fasel is planning an emergency trip to Moscow, hoping to get the Russian federation to sign. It is unclear if the NHL would ratify a deal that doesn't include the Russians.

"If the agreement doesn't happen, if Rene Fasel can't persuade them to change their minds, we will have a chaotic situation on the transfer market," IIHF spokesman Szymon Szemberg told the AP.

"Everything between the IIHF and the NHL in the collective bargaining agreement would be void," Szemberg added. "There would be no NHL participation at the Olympics, at the world championships or a possible World Cup. There would be no transfer agreement."

The new agreement increases the amount of compensation that the NHL pays to European federations in exchange for signing players.

In the new five-year plan, the NHL would pay $12.5 million annually to a development fund managed by the sport's governing body -- a $3.5 million increase from the previous deal.

The IIHF distributes the money among the national federations and clubs that lose players to the NHL based on a formula devised by the IIHF and the national federations.

A player picked first overall in the NHL draft is worth $900,000, with each successive pick down to 30th decreasing by $20,000. Later draft picks are valued at $150,000 each.

The new formula was designed largely to satisfy the Russian clubs, which regularly lose their top prospects to the NHL.

"We still believe that the framework we have had in place for the last 10 years now has served the sport of hockey well," Daly said.

But the Russians want to negotiate their own transfer deals directly with NHL clubs so they can get more money, Szemberg said.

"Local clubs do not object to signing an agreement that is equal for all and not one-sided," Russia's Professional Hockey League vice president Vladimir Shalayev said.

Russian team Avangard Omsk would have liked to deal directly with the Washington Capitals when Alexander Ovechkin -- the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL draft -- opted out of his contract with the Russian Super League club.

By not signing the new agreement, however, Russian clubs risk losing players for nothing.

"Without this agreement, [the NHL] can really take any player it wants at any time without any compensation," Szemberg said.

Szemberg said the agreement also limits the number of players that can leave Europe annually and imposes a transfer deadline.

"The Russians are willing to discuss it further, so you have to be optimistic," Szemberg said.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press