DETROIT – Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League completed a contract with Detroit Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler on Thursday.
The KHL registered Hudler’s US$10-million, two-year contract in Moscow. A statement from the league cited two NHL teams’ pursuit of players under contract with KHL clubs and a lack of a player transfer agreement between the leagues as the impetus for the move.
The KHL previously filed Hudler’s contract July 9, but held off on the deal pending negotiations between the two leagues.
“I think they’re trying to justify what is clearly an interference with contract by raising non-analogous situations,” deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly said.
Hudler’s agent and Red Wings representatives attended a salary arbitration hearing Thursday morning in Toronto. In the event Hudler returns to the United States in the future, the hearing will determine his salary in a one-year contract with the Red Wings.
General manager Ken Holland said the team expects a ruling in the next few days.
Hudler made $1.15 million with the Red Wings last season, and he reportedly turned down Detroit’s offer of $3 million per year for up to five years.
While Holland has said he expects Hudler to play in Russia next year, having the young forward develop for a brief time overseas may work out for the best.
“My hope is that he goes to Russia and he wants to come back and he’s a better player,” Holland said. “The cap maybe goes up a little bit and we’re sitting at a real good situation.”
Laden with large contracts such as centre Henrik Zetterberg’s recent $70-million deal, 12-year deal, the Red Wings had limited financial maneuverability during this off-season.
Hudler did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The KHL’s allegations of NHL clubs improperly targeting their players is a mischaracterization, the NHL’s chief international negotiator said.
NHL restricted free agents are subject to barriers to signing with other NHL teams but not with international clubs, Daly said.
Hudler, by electing to undergo salary arbitration, ceased being a restricted free agent and was thus ineligible to be signed by Dynamo Moscow.
The two KHL players in question – forwards Evgeni Dadonov and Sergei Shirokov – were drafted by the Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks in the 2007 and 2006 drafts, respectively. Dadonov has signed a contract with the Panthers while Shirokov, currently a member of HC CSKA Moscow, is being pursued by the Canucks.
Dadonov “provided evidence at the time he signed and registered his NHL contract that his contract had expired,” Daly said.
A KHL spokesman said he did not have further information about the details of the two player’s contracts.
While both sides say they are willing to talk, their positions remain far apart. And as time goes on, KHL spokesman Shawn McBride said, situations like this will only become more numerous.
“This could and should and would be all resolved if there was a transfer agreement. As the KHL continues to prove to be a viable option for players by a competitive and financial standpoint, you can only expect there to be more situations, not less of players looking abroad,” he said.