In a wide-ranging interview with The Hockey News last week, the executive director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association said he is confident a new transfer agreement will be signed between the NHL and the grand majority of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s member organizations.
“Just recently having been (at the IIHF headquarters) in Zurich and talking a lot about these issues…I’m cautiously optimistic that we have a real good shot of signing on to a new transfer agreement,” said Paul Kelly, who will be front and center during the next round of transfer agreement negotiations currently scheduled for early September.
However, Kelly isn’t at all assured that one country in particular will choose to be part of any new pact.
“The Russians have not been part of it for a number of years, and at this point, my sense is that they probably will recluse themselves from any transfer agreement that might be signed in the near term,” Kelly told The Hockey News in an interview that will appear in an upcoming magazine edition.
“On the other hand, I do think there is a strong interest on the part of most of the other federations – certainly, the Finns, the Swedes, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Germans, the Canadians, the U.S. – to sign off on a new agreement.”
Kelly fully understands the need to replace the transfer agreement that European member countries demanded be reopened last December.
“The problem you get without a transfer agreement is a lot of teams are reluctant to draft European and Russian players,” Kelly said. “Teams feel the risk is too high, that they’re not going to be able to sign the player.
“I think for the long-term interest of the game, we want to have the best players in the world playing in our league. And a fair transfer agreement would facilitate getting those players to come over to North America and play.
“As long as the transfer agreement makes sense economically for the NHL, and also makes sense for the individual federations – that it doesn’t terribly deplete their local and national teams, that it doesn’t damage hockey globally – it will work.”
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays in the summer, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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