Russia turns down four-year player transfer deal

Updated: May 9, 2007, 1:51 PM ET
Associated Press

MOSCOW -- Russia refused to sign a new four-year player agreement regulating transfers from Europe to the NHL.

The Russian federation refused to sign because it wants the NHL to honor its league contracts. All other International Ice Hockey Federation member associations ratified the agreement by the Tuesday midnight deadline.

Russian federation president Vladislav Tretiak said Russian clubs agreed "almost unanimously'' not to sign.

NHL clubs are forbidden from acquiring players already under contract in Russia, but can take free agents without paying compensation. However, Russian players can easily break their contracts, freeing them to sign with an NHL team.

The IIHF and the NHL have had agreements in place for the past 12 years, and the most recent two-year agreement did not include Russia.

The new agreement runs until the 2010-11 season, and includes an annual development fee paid by the NHL to the IIHF. The money will then be distributed by the IIHF to the national associations and their clubs.

By refusing to sign, the Russian federation will lose its players for nothing.

The agreement also includes a deadline for NHL clubs to sign players during the offseason.

About 30 percent of the NHL's players come from Europe, and between 45 and 60 players are signed from European countries each year.

The IIHF was close to getting Russia to agree to a deal last year, but it was turned down by owners of elite Russian league clubs, who demanded millions of dollars in compensation for losing top players like Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Evgeni Malkin.

The Russian federation's refusal to sign the agreement has led to several court cases on both sides of the Atlantic.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press