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NHL and IIHF agree in principle on new transfer deal for European players

The two sides agreed in principle on a new four-year deal Saturday, and there's a deadline of midnight Tuesday for the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia - and the other IIHF member countries - to ratify it.

The agreement would regulate all player moves across the Atlantic with compensation and a signing deadline. Russia is not part of the current agreement, which was signed in 2005 and expires after this season.

"I didn't really know what to expect from the day and obviously we would have been happy to come out here and say we have a deal and that we've signed it," said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. "I guess this is the next best thing."

The day began rather ominously as Russian federation president Vladislav Tretiak didn't attend the three-hour meeting. The Russians were instead represented by general secretary Valentin Kozin.

The NHL has been trying to come to a consensus with them for the past couple years. Daly is not sure what might happen if the Russians don't sign on to this new deal. The clock is ticking.

"From my perspective, we're already late," he said. "Our clubs want to start signing players at the conclusion of their season . . .

"We've had situations where players who are under contract next year in Europe want to sign (players) and are really being delayed."

The proposed agreement would include an annual development fee that is "less contingent" on the quality of the player, according to Daly. The NHL pays for each European player that is transferred and the IIHF distributes that money.

Not being part of the deal for the past two years resulted in Russia losing players without compensation. Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin left Russian teams for nothing and were then part of court cases, which were all won by the NHL.

But the issue for the Russians isn't just about money.

"They want to keep the good players here and they want to have an extra strong league," said IIHF President Rene Fasel. "They have enough money in Russia."

Players like Malkin and Ovechkin aren't the problem, either. Fasel says those guys belong in the NHL.

The Russian federation is more concerned about players like Alexei Kaigorodov (Phoenix), Alexei Mikhnov (Edmonton) and Enver Lisin (Phoenix), who all came to North America this year and decided to return to Russia rather than spend the entire season in the American Hockey League.

European players not good enough to play in the NHL belong at home, according to Fasel.

"We have nothing against the best players playing in the best league in the world - the NHL," he said. "The only concern we have is that they take too many and (get them when they are) too young. It's always the same discussion.

"Out of the 60 players they take in a year, only maybe 12 or 15 are making the team. The others just disappear."

Even if the Russians sign on to the proposed agreement there is no guarantee it will last four years.

The deal includes an option for both sides to opt out after one year. Clearly, that's something all sides hope to avoid.

"Neither Rene nor I want to go though this process yet again," said Daly.



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