Imagine if Ilya Kovalchuk had left for the KHL, but could come back at any moment were an NHL club to pay a transfer fee. That’s exactly what could happen if hockey’s two biggest professional leagues can come to terms on a transfer agreement.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the NHL and KHL appear to be close to making such an agreement a reality. The agreement, reportedly one that would span four years, would allow for players to move between the NHL and KHL were teams to pay transfer fees. There is no report on whether those fees would be negotiated or a set figure.
The difference between the potential transfer agreement and the current situation is an open NHL-KHL passageway would allow the fees to take place of players working to void their contracts. Currently, players in both leagues must have their contract voided to leave their respective teams to head across the pond.
If the transfer agreement is worked out, it would add another wrinkle to the free agency period, likely opening up a route for Russian players to come from the KHL to the NHL or allowing those seeking a change of scenery to leave for the KHL.
In the past several seasons, a number of moves have been made back and forth between the KHL and NHL, including the highly publicized exit of Ilya Kovalchuk from his deal with the New Jersey Devils and subsequent signing with the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg. Alexander Radulov and Evgeni Malkin are also notable players who have left the KHL for the NHL, with Radulov also being one of a handful of players who left the NHL for the greener, more lucrative pastures of the Russian league.
The news of the potential agreement comes shortly after former St. Louis Blues center Vladimir Sobotka went back and forth on whether or not he would leave the KHL for the NHL this off-season. Sobotka, 27, signed a three-year deal with Avangard Omsk after a contract dispute with the Blues, through which he was awarded a one-year deal through arbitration. His fate for next season is sealed – he’ll be playing with Omsk – but a transfer agreement could open up a longer window for Sobotka and players in similar situations to return to the NHL.
The NHL has not had a transfer agreement with Russia since 2004, before the KHL came into existence in 2007-08. The former agreement came when Russia’s top league was known as the Russian Superleague.