"Today we took an important step towards establishing a constructive partnership and mutual cooperation between the two leagues," announced KHL President Alexander Medvedev. "We expect that in the future all questions regarding interaction between the KHL and NHL will be concluded in a solely civilized manner within the framework..."
>>Official communique from make glorious hockey league of KHL
...words, words, words, buncha words.
Even by the low standards of "official memoranda of understanding" -- whether in the Western "Let me reframe your question into my talking point" business world, or in the "Write what we tell you, when we tell you" Eastern state that still isn't into the whole "free press" thing -- this official agreement sure doesn't tell us much. There's a lot of the same old "recognize contracts" and "exchange of information" jargon.
The only mildly tasty morsel, if you're an optimist, is this line: "The two sides have devised a mechanism for resolving disputes concerning transfers of players between the leagues."
"Transfers," you say?
Dmitry Chesnokov at Puck Daddy offers some interpretation, as well as quotes from Gary Bettman (but there we go again: What to believe?) that there is nothing more significant going on than some exhibition games.
As an Isles fan and long-time skeptic on this saga I'm selfishly focused on one thing: Is there a route for 2008 3rd-round pick Kiril Petrov to play for the Islanders or not? I don't expect an official answer from anyone -- there is too much riding on maintaining Cold War-level secrecy -- but I'll share my thinking on it, and you tell me how you see it:
- We know Petrov has expressed interest in coming over.
- We know that Petrov intends to come over for this summer's prospect camp.
- We know that Garth Snow has worked some sort of back-channel to at least gauge how the Islanders can make Petrov's transfer/loan/something happen.
- But: We also know Petrov is still under KHL contract for multiple years, that there is no transfer agreement with the KHL -- nor any prospect of one, apparently -- and there isn't a precedent for an NHL club paying a soccer-style, single-team "transfer fee" to get a KHL player out of his KHL contract.
- However: Last season two prominent-yet-unhappy Russian prospects were "loaned" by their NHL teams to KHL clubs -- Viktor Tikhonov by Phoenix, Nikita Filatov by Columbus.
Admittedly, I have no concrete information beyond that to go on. But I'm convinced, unless there is some NHL policy change we don't know is coming, that there's no way Gary Bettman allows the Islanders to set a precedent by paying to bring a 3rd-round pick over here. However, the fact two unhappy Russians were loaned to the KHL rather than buried in the AHL last season makes me wonder if there's some kind of "you loan my back, I'll loan yours" movement going on.
Isn't that how you'd see these two mistrusting sides doing business? "Well, if the player is unhappy, we can at least let him play in your top tier rather than be unhappy in our second tier" -- something like that? Do you see any other route, given the state and long-running soap opera of NHL-KHL relations?
Of course, that then brings the question: Tikhonov and Filatov are both headed back to the NHL -- the 'Yotes even recalled Tikhonov in March; if Petrov were loaned, and somehow made the Islanders, and then excelled at the NHL level -- could the KHL call him back at a moment's notice? Or is it just a matter of his happiness?
Again, no concrete information -- and in this murky saga, I really don't expect any via official channels. But from what few public tea leaves there are, that's how I figure it. Or in other words, in the case of Kiril Petrov wearing an Islanders uniform in a game that counts: I'll believe it when I see it.
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P.S. Touted 2010-eligible Russian prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov just signed a new 2-year contract with his KHL club. Interested?