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Russia unlikely to sign hockey transfer agreement between IIHF and NHL

Russian hockey federation president Vladislav Tretiak said Tuesday that 80 per cent of his nation's clubs were dissatisfied with the terms. "We are not yet happy," he said. "We are in negotiations."

The International Ice Hockey Federation's national associations have until midnight Tuesday to ratify the latest agreement between the IIHF and the NHL.

About 30 per cent of the NHL's players come from Europe. The NHL annually signs 45 to 60 players from European countries.

The IIHF and the NHL have had agreements in place for the last 12 years. The most recent two-year agreement did not include Russia because it wants the NHL to honour its league contracts.

NHL clubs are forbidden from acquiring players already under contract in Russia, but can take free agents without paying compensation. However, Russian players can still easily break their contracts, freeing them to sign with an NHL team.

"Russia would like a friendship with the NHL," Tretiak said at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. "Today it's very simple to take hockey players. Two weeks and each guy can go. The NHL every year gets Russian players. If the players want to go to the NHL then OK, after their contract (ends)."

The proposed agreement would run until the 2010-11 season, and would include an annual development fee paid by the NHL to the IIHF. The money would then be distributed by the IIHF to the national associations and their clubs. The Russian federation could lose players for nothing by refusing to sign.

"Russia has a lot of money," Tretiak said with a shrug.

The agreement also includes a deadline for NHL clubs to sign players during the off-season.

The IIHF was close to getting Russia to agree to a deal last year but was turned down by owners of elite Russian league clubs, who demanded millions of dollars in compensation for losing top players such as Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Evgeni Malkin.

The lack of an agreement has resulted in several court cases on both sides of the Atlantic.

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