Transfer deal still might get ratified on Tuesday

Updated: May 5, 2007, 10:39 AM ET
Reuters

MOSCOW -- The NHL and International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) agreed in principle to a new transfer agreement on Saturday before a hesitant Russia again prevented a quick ratification.

The Russian Federation, which refused to sign the existing two-year accord that expires at the end of the NHL season, had appeared set to end its holdout and join the other top European nations in a new agreement.

But, with Russia Federation president and Hall of Fame goaltender Vladislav Tretiak absent from Saturday's meeting, no deal was signed.

The NHL, IIHF, NHL Players Association and the leading seven European hockey nations now have until Tuesday to ratify the accord.

"I think we have an agreement in principle," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters at the end of three hours of meetings.

"Everybody knows Russian participation was an issue in our last agreement and we're hopeful the Russians will see fit to participate in this agreement.

"I think we've agreed on the form of the agreement and now it's up to the parties to ratify that."

The proposed agreement would run for four years and, according to media reports, the 30 NHL clubs would contribute between $10-12 million annually to a transfer pool administered by the IIHF.

Details of the proposal were not released but European clubs are expected to receive $200,000 for every player signed by an NHL team.

The agreement also includes a deadline where NHL clubs can sign players during the off-season.

"They [Russia Federation] will have a meeting and they will give us an answer on May 8," said IIHF president Rene Fasel. "We have set a deadline of midnight.

"They [the Russians] know exactly what is going on, we have been discussing for many months the proposal and they know exactly the numbers and figures and conditions and just have to say yes or no."

The Russian Federation has balked at signing agreements at the 11th hour in the past.

The IIHF believed it was close to getting the Russians on board at last year's world championship in Riga.

But the IIHF was rebuffed by Russian club owners who demanded millions of dollars in compensation for losing top players such as Washington Capitals duo Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The lack of an agreement has resulted in several court cases on both sides of the Atlantic.

Russian teams launched law suits in U.S. courts in an attempt to block Ovechkin, Semin and Malkin playing in the NHL.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nikolai Zherdev's case went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland after his former clu,b CSKA Moscow, argued he was still obligated to perform military service.

All four cases ended in favor of the player and the NHL, leaving the Russian clubs with no compensation.

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