The already-contentious relationship between the NHL and KHL appears to have taken another step in the wrong direction. In response to the Los Angeles Kings’ signing of 2008 draft picks Viatcheslav Voynov and Andrei Loktionov this week, the KHL has declared itself free of any obligations to respect NHL contracts, seemingly declaring an end to the agreement reached in Zurich in July between the two leagues in which each agreed not to sign players under contract with the other. The KHL maintains that both Voynov and Loktionov remain under contract with KHL teams Traktor Chelybinsk and Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, respectively, and that by allowing the Kings to sign them, the NHL has violated the July agreement. The KHL issued the following statement on their web site regarding the matter:
The Continental Hockey League strictly adhered to the unilaterally declared moratorium on the invitation of hockey players with operating contracts with clubs of the National Hockey League. The NHL has violated the agreement reached earlier in Zurich and on August 28th announced the completion of contracts with hockey players Andrei Loktionov and Vyatcheslav Voinov by the Los Angeles Kings. The specified players have operating contracts with KHL clubs Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) and Traktor (Chelyabinsk), respectively.
In connection with this the KHL considers itself free of any obligations with respect to the observance of the earlier announced moratorium on the transfer of players. On September 6th at the headquarters of the International Ice Hockey Federation in Zurich a meeting will take place on this topic, after which the Continental Hockey League will define subsequent actions in relation to the National Hockey League.
KHL president Alexander Medvedev commented on the situation to Russian site Sport Express last night. “We believe that the NHL has broken the agreement which was reached at the meeting in Zurich. Now we consider ourselves free from commitments to not sign contracts with players who have operating contracts overseas,” Medvedev said. “However, until September 6th, I have recommended that our clubs not do it, since first I want to consult with the management of the International Ice Hockey Federation. On the 6th we have planned this meeting in Zurich.”
Russian labor law allows players to terminate their contracts by providing 30 days notice and paying an agreed-upon buyout fee. It is unclear whether Voinov and Loktionov have done so. Despite signing NHL deals, both players are expected to play in the Canadian junior league this season; Voinov with the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and Loktionov with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
UPDATE: On Saturday the Columbus Blue Jackets added more fuel to the fire by announcing the signing of 19-year old, 2007 draft pick Maksim Mayorov. As of this spring, Mayorov was reported to be under contract with AK Bars Kazan through 2012.
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