IIHF Suspends Six Players Pending Investigation
Friday July 18th 2008, 11:35 pm

A week after it appeared the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) had helped broker a deal that would force the NHL and KHL to play nice, they decided to make good on an earlier threat, suspending six players who’s contracts are under dispute from international transfers and competition. The six players under scrutiny include Nashville star Alexander Radulov, Russian whiz-kid Nikita Filatov, Czech defenseman Thomas Mojzis, former Rangers Jason Krog and Fedor Fedorov, and Victor Tikhonov, grandson of the legendary Soviet coach. All are either heading to, or departing from, the KHL. “Until this investigation has come to its final conclusion and the IIHF has rendered its decisions, all concerned players will be suspended from international transfers and competitions,” the IIHF statement read. Here’s a brief overview of the situation surrounding each of players in question:

  • Twenty-three year old Radulov, who has a year left on his entry level contract with the Nashville Predators, is said to have signed his 3-year, $8m deal the day before the NHL-KHL agreement was announced, though the signing wasn’t made public in the Russian press until the day after. Whether he can produce a signed contract with the correct date on it or not, the agreement between the NHL and KHL was one “in principal” only, and nothing binding was signed at the time. At worst, the IIHF will follow the precedent it set last year when it suspended Alexei Kaigarodov, Stanislav Chistov, Alexander Svitov and Andrei Taratukhin from the World Championships after they left their NHL teams in favor of playing in Russia. Radulov could also be excluded from the European Champions League Cup, an IIHF-sanctioned club tournament in which his new team, Salavat Ulaev, will participate as champions of the Russian league.

  • Filatov has insisted all along that he was no longer under contract with CSKA Moscow, but it seems that might not have been entirely true. It appears he was hoping to use the metamorphosis of the RSL into the KHL as an out for a contract on there is still one year remaining. At the close of last season, all existing RSL player contracts were re-written in a revised KHL form. One modification that was made was the incorporation of a change in Russian labor law that allows a player to terminate their contract by providing 30 days notice and paying compensation, the amount of which is to be negotiated at the time of the contract signing. This new procedure for terminating a contract plugged the two-week notice loophole that was used by Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin to escape his contract and come to Pittsburgh two summers ago.  According to Filatov, he issued his 30-day notice under his old RSL contract at the end of last season.  But he paid no compensation, since no pre-arranged amount existed in that contract. He then refused to sign a new KHL contract, which, Filatov and his agents argue, leaves him free to play in North America. But KHL president Alexander Medvedev argued otherwise, claiming that in the absence of a pre-negotiated figure the buyout cost must be determined at the time of termination, and citing figures ranging from $500,000 to $1.5m as  possible values for a player of Filatov’s caliber. But it appears CSKA has chosen to back Filatov up, stating in a press release on their web site that the contract has been terminated, while noting that they retain his rights should he return to play in Russia.

  • Czech defenseman Thomas Mojzis, who signed with the Minnesota Wild on July 7th, played with Sibir Novosibirsk of the RSL last season and was reported to have signed an extension this summer. His agent, Vladimir Vujteka Jr., however, claims that only a preliminary agreement was reached, and that no formal contract was ever signed. Novosibirsk General Manager Alexander Kantsurov, meanwhile, insists the contract was negotiated and signed in May and is currently waiting for Mojzis to show up for training camp.

  • Former Ranger and 2008 AHL Playoff MVP Jason Krog signed with Severstal Cherepovets in May, but didn’t hesitate to sign a contract with the Vancouver Canucks when the opportunity came along on July 14th — well after the supposed agreement was reached between the KHL and NHL. Meanwhile, Cherepnovets seems unphased, assuring fans via their web site that they’ll have no problem signing another foreign player not only equal to, but better than Krog, and lending credence to rumors that Krog’s Russian deal included an out-clause should he sign an NHL contract by August 1st.

  • Another former Ranger, Fedor Fedorov, apparently signed with the Devils earlier this month, though the deal has yet to be announced by the club. According to Dynamo Moscow president Michael Golovkov, the team has made the younger Fedorov a qualifying offer, which has thus far gone unsigned, but which allows the team to retain his playing rights in Russia. Regardless, it appears there are no contractual obstacles to prevent him from signing a deal with the Devil(s).

  • Finally, Victor Tikhonov finds himself in the same position as Fedorov, having been made a qualifying offer by his former team which he refused to sign. Under the rules of the KHL, as long as a player receives no offers from other Russian clubs (and neither Tikhonov or Fedorov did) the team making the qualifying offer retains the player’s rights in Russia for 2 years.  Severstal director Anatoly Tenitsky acknowledged this in an interview with RussianProspects.com admitting “he [Tikhonov] has the full right to play in North America”.

Ranger fans have questioned how these potential legal wranglings effect Rangers Russian prospects Alexei Cherepanov and Evgeni Grachev. In short, they don’t. Cherepanov has already stated (multiple times) that he’ll remain in Russia to finish the final year on his contract with Avangard Omsk. Provided he doesn’t sign a new contract and wants come to the NHL for the 2009-2010 season, he will be free to do so. Meanwhile, Grachev — who apparently has a KHL deal that runs through 2011 — seems to have obtained permission from Yaroslavl Lokomotiv to continue his career in North America, similar to what Artem Anisimov — who according to the same article is signed with Yaroslavl through 2010 — did last year.

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