Alexei Cherepanov and the Russian junior squad rolled over the Team Sweden today in the Four Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic, 5-2. Russia’s goals came from Evgeni Dadanov (2), Yegor Dubrovsky, Igor Golovkov and Ilya Vochkov. Once again no box score was available to indicate who else factored in the scoring.
Here in the New York, Larry Brooks of the NY Post offers this (non-)story, meant to send Ranger fans into a tizzy of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing over the potential loss of their future Russian star. In the story, Brooks reveals that former NHLPA boss Ted Saskin is set to testify tomorrow against the union he once led in regards to a grievance filed against the NHL by the players association which challenges the league’s current ruling on the rights of yet-unsigned, European-drafted players.
As per the current CBA, the rights of European draftees expire on June 1st of the second year following their draft, similar to the rights of players who are drafted from North America (excluding those who opt to play in the NCAA). This was a change from the rules that were in place prior to the lockout, which saw the rights of European players retained by the clubs that drafted them for (near) eternity.
With the collapse of the international transfer agreement in May, the NHL declared that the provision in the CBA whereby a team’s rights to a player expired after two years was no longer valid. Since then, the league and its teams have been working under the old rule, which set no expiration date on a European player’s rights. This is what has allowed the Rangers to retain the rights to 2006 draft picks David Kveton and Lukas Zeliska beyond this past June 1st (though realistically, neither looks likely to ever be signed by the team anyway.) The NHLPA, not surprisingly, is challenging the legality of the league’s decision on behalf of its players.
As Brooks points out, if the NHLPA emerges victorious, the 2-year expiration date will be re-instituted.
The Rangers, therefore, would lose their rights to Alexei Cherepanov, whom they selected 17th overall in 2007, if the Russian does not sign by June 1, 2009. Under terms of the CBA, Cherepanov, currently under contract to KHL Omsk, would be available for claim in the 2009 Entry Draft. The Rangers would receive the 17th pick of the second round as compensation.
This is all very much true. But utterly and completely premature. First, we have to wait and see if the NHL’s decision stands or if the the NHLPA succeeds in their challenge. Second, if Cherepanov does decide to come over to the NHL next season, there will be plenty of time between the end of the KHL season in April and June 1st in which to get a deal done. Third, if he doesn’t come over, the likelihood of another team wasting even a low-round draft pick on him would be extremely small, given the fact that there will be other high-grade, lower-risk Russian talent available.
Ultimately, the Rangers knew the risk involved when they drafted him; at the time the 2-year rule for European draftees was very much in effect, and it played a large role in why a top-5 player like Cherepanov fell to them at number 17 in the first place. If Cherepanov doesn’t come to New York next year, it will likely mean he’s either signed or is poised to sign a lucrative new deal to stay in Russia. At that point there would be little reason to believe he’d ever leave for the NHL.
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