A day after it was announced that 22-year old defenseman Mikhail Pashnin had decided not to sign with the New York Rangers, opting instead to extend his contract with CSKA Moscow of the KHL for two more years, his agent Alexei Dementiev explained the decision to Sovietsky Sport reporter Vladislav Domrachev:
We couldn’t come to a quick agreement on the terms of the contract with New York. The two-way contract didn’t suit us — Mikhail would hardly progress on the farm club. The negotiations dragged on, and as time passed it became necessary to start preparing for the season. So we we decided to stay with CSKA for two years. Especially since [CSKA] has a new head coach, Julius Shupler, who loves tough, aggressive hockey. And the team that’s been put together is very interesting, capable of doing great things. On such a team Pashnin could make his way on to the national team and play at the Olympics in Sochi. In fact the new head coach of the national team, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, himself once a notable defenseman, knows the value of guys like Mikhail.
It’s easy to boil Pashnin’s decision not to sign with the Rangers down to “he didn’t want a two-way deal,” but let’s think about this: Dementiev’s not stupid. A former scout for the Nashville Predator’s who represents other players and prospects with NHL interests, he had to have known the Rangers couldn’t have offered Pashnin a one-way deal if they wanted to, thanks to the entry level contract provisions set forth in the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. So the question becomes: did the young defenseman have a change of heart, or was this all a ruse by Dementiev to extract a better offer from CSKA?
Either option is plausible. It’s impossible to dismiss the public criticism leveled by Viacheslav Fetisov towards Pashnin’s decision to leave for North America. In addition to being CSKA’s president, Fetisov is also an extremely influential man in Russian hockey circles. A word from him in your favor could open doors that would be otherwise closed to you in your career. Conversely, making him your enemy could be akin to performing career suicide. It seems an unlikely coincidence that what appeared to be a done deal suddenly became “no deal” the day after Fetisov’s comments were published. Imagine the pressure that could placed on a young, middle-tier hockey player by suggesting he wouldn’t have a job to come back to if he left for the NHL and failed to fulfill his dream. Or the influence that could be levied with the mere suggestion that a good word could be placed in your favor with the man picking the roster for the 2012 Olympics in Sochi…
On the other hand, maybe it was never Pashnin’s intention to come to North America this year in the first place. Dementiev had to realize the Rangers blueline is already packed with talent and, more importantly, one-way contracts. Perhaps his negotiations with the Rangers and decision to withhold his client from start of CSKA’s training camp were nothing more than leverage in negotiations for a better deal with CSKA. If so, it would appear everything went to plan. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time an agent played one league off against the other, and it definitely won’t be the last.
Regardless, just as it was foolish to expect Pashnin to challenge for a spot on the Rangers blueline this fall, it would be foolish to write him off completely because he’s chosen to spend two more years in Russia. At 22, Pashnin still has plenty of room to grow as a hockey player, and he’ll be given ample opportunity to do that with CSKA.
Nemchinov on Pashnin:
After long and complex negotiations, we managed to convince the player and his agent to extend his contract with our club. It’s a little early for Mikhail to leave for the NHL. He played unevenly last season. In the middle of the season he even lost his place on the roster, started making frequent mistakes. But at the end of the season he was successful. Pashnin even developed a taste for scoring goals. And in the MHL playoffs he played brilliantly.
Dementiev on Pashnin:
Mikhail possesses excellent skating, which he is improving with a special trainer, and his ability to throw hits can be envied not only in Russia, but overseas. Pashnin went to the Rangers development camp a year ago, and this summer. Everyone there was delighted with him. The team’s general manager Glen Sather, who in the 80’s coached the legendary Edmonton [Oilers], couldn’t hide his admiration: “Your defenseman has forced our guys to play with their heads up, because when they lowered them for a moment, they immediately found themselves on the ice after his hit.”