DETROIT – Jiri Hudler’s days in Detroit are over – at least for now.
Hudler’s contract with Dynamo Moscow was filed Thursday with the Continental Hockey League (KHL), according to a league spokesman, meaning he will play next season in the same league as former star Sergei Fedorov.
“It’s a testament to the perception that players have of the KHL as a viable option, from both a competitive and a career growth standpoint – not to mention from a financial standpoint,” said Shawn McBride, the KHL’s North American spokesman.
Hudler’s two-year deal could be worth up to US$5 million per season, according to the Detroit Free Press. Hudler made $1.15 million with the Red Wings last season and he reportedly turned down a Red Wings offer of $3 million for up to five years.
Hudler, 25, and his agent, Petr Svoboda, did not return messages left Thursday. Neither did Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, who told the Detroit News this week that the team would go through arbitration with Hudler in order to retain his rights should Hudler return to the NHL.
Hudler, a restricted free agent, filed for salary arbitration with the NHL on Sunday.
Hudler’s deal comes roughly a year after Nashville Predators forward Alexander Radulov bolted from the last year of his contract for a deal with then-KHL champion Salavat Yulayev Ufa.
Radulov’s deal raised eyebrows in the NHL but no formal agreement has been hammered out between the two leagues to handle players who wish to sign between them.
“There’s been a gentleman’s agreement in place to not pursue situations like Radulov but this is a different situation,” McBride said. “As a result of there not being a formal transfer agreement there are not bylaws or any binding legal parameters that have been outlined.”
NHL spokesman Frank Brown wrote in an e-mail that the NHL believes Hudler “remains contractually obligated to the Detroit Red Wings.”
The Kremlin-backed KHL is hoping to expand into Western Europe as early as next season. The KHL said last fall it was no longer obligated to abide by a moratorium reached a year ago, when the leagues agreed to not sign players that were under contract.
The KHL has a formidable group of benefactors, including cash-rich companies such as Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer, and Norilsk Nickel, the world’s No. 1 producer of nickel and palladium. Gazprom chairman Alexander Medvedev is also the KHL’s president.