The IIHF, together with representatives from its top five talent producing members, met with the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association in New York on Wednesday, January 16th. The present national associations (Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden) develop almost 90 percent of the NHL’s European player contingent.
The meeting was headed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, IIHF President René Fasel, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly.
During the five-hour meeting, the IIHF and its members addressed the most pressing issues pertaining to the re-opened Player Transfer Agreement. The current IIHF-NHL deal is a four-year agreement that begun last season, but both sides decided to re-open it before January 1, 2008.
“It was a very good and constructive meeting,” said IIHF President René Fasel. “It presented the top five European exporters of player talent to the NHL with a timely opportunity to express their views and concerns to both the NHL and the NHLPA. We were satisfied that both the league and their players’ association share the same concern with too many young European players coming over to North America before they are NHL ready.”
“As we share the concern, we still have different opinions about which are the correct measures to address this problem,” said René Fasel. “But one major issue which we agreed upon is to increase the age by which a player who does not make the NHL team’s roster must be first offered back to his European team.”
Under the re-opened agreement, a player who is still under contract with an IIHF team and has not reached his 20th birthday must be offered back to his team in Europe. The new proposal sees the age limit to be increased by two years. This provision does not refer to players who where selected in the first round of the NHL draft.
The IIHF, NHL and the NHLPA are considering a possible short-term interim framework agreement for the 2008-2009 season which – if approved – would regulate transfers of European players who sign NHL contracts for the 2008-2009 season.
“This way we are buying ourselves some time to be able to fully evaluate the effects on the movement of players from Europe to North America and to use those results when trying to reach a new long-term agreement for 2009 and beyond,” said Fasel.
The short-term framework is now subject to all parties going back to their respective electorates (clubs, players’ union) for evaluation.
Out of the 59 European players who were signed by NHL clubs prior to the 2007-2008 season, six are on NHL rosters, 46 were assigned to the minor leagues and seven returned to their European clubs.