TORONTO – IIHF president René Fasel couldn’t have put things more aptly. “Fifty per cent of something is better than 100% of nothing.” This philosophy is one being adopted more and more by European leagues such that a new Player Transfer Agreement seems like “when” not “if” any longer. The most recent PTA was fully abandoned by the Russians five years ago and by other countries over the succeeding two to three years, stripping teams in those leagues of millions of dollars of vital development money.
This was the theme of the final of four Hot Stove Sessions at the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight to kick off the Molson Canadian World Hockey Summit.
Fasel explained further. “The Swedes and Finns have lost a lot of money without an agreement, but they are coming back now. Players are being advised by agents to sign short-term contracts so they can leave for the NHL at the end of a year if they have the chance. I think more and more federations will come back to make a new player transfer agreement. They’re losing too much.”
Fasel offered a quick history lesson as backdrop o the topic discussion. “Everything changed in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Then, player movement became common, and by 1995 many players moved from Russia to the NHL without any compensation. We worked out a transfer agreement with the NHL and European countries, but over time the federations became unhappy with the amount of money they were getting."
Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL, offered another perspective: “It’s no secret we’ve had difficulties with the KHL. It comes down to mutual respect of contracts for us. Radulov and other cases have been unfortunate examples. In some respect, it’s individual Russian clubs. In the end, it’s more about greater cooperation than about a new player transfer agreement.”
Daly added that it's his belief the money involved in PTA signings were more than generous. “We’re living in a different environment than 1994 to 2008 when we had a global agreement to sign players,” he explained. “The NHL paid the IIHF a total of $100 million over a 10-year period to distribute to European leagues. That’s a not inconsiderable sum.”
Slava Fetisov, one of the greatest international players of all time, stressed his country’s need to make the KHL work as a means of developing homegrown talent just as the NHL does for Canadians and Americans. “Last year we started a junior league and this year we started a minor league to help with the development of our young players,” he noted. “The KHL started in 2005, and although we still have problems we are making progress.” Losing players to the NHL, however, has made the development of Russian players on home ice difficult, if not impossible, he noted.
NHLPA lawyer Roman Stoykewych added: "We feel players should be allowed to pursue their careers whenever and wherever they want."