As far as Gary Bettman is concerned, it’s business as usual with the Russian-based KHL.
The NHL commissioner said Monday that no formal transfer agreement has been signed between the two leagues. That tossed cold water on reports out of Russia which suggested a formal deal had been reached.
“There’s no agreement,” Bettman told The Canadian Press in an interview. “(Deputy commissioner) Bill Daly confirmed in writing what our practice has been—namely, we respect their contracts and we expect them to respect ours.
“There’s no transfer agreement so we don’t have the same relationship with the KHL that we have with the Swedes or the Finns or the Czechs.”
The two leagues have been without a formal agreement since the KHL came into existence in 2008. The most notable case of a contract being violated came that year when Alex Radulov bolted the Nashville Predators for Ufa in Russia.
There always seems to be something lost in translation between the two leagues. On Monday night, the KHL’s North American-based spokesman put out a news release about an agreement, calling it a “historic event.”
It was news to Bettman.
“We don’t understand what that announcement was all about,” he said. “Nothing’s changed.”
There is evidence of some relationship between the two leagues. The Carolina Hurricanes played an exhibition game in St. Petersburg on Monday—the first time that’s happened in 20 years.
Bettman holds no animosity against his counterparts in Russia.
“If there was a war, we wouldn’t have had the Hurricanes play in St. Petersburg today,” he said. “It is what it is. There hasn’t been a thawing (in the relationship), there hasn’t been a cooling—it’s pretty much business as usual, which for the most part hasn’t been much business.”
The NHL commissioner believes that could change. He wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the league potentially holding a regular season game on Russian soil down the road.
“There’s no reason to think it couldn’t happen,” said Bettman.