KHL founder keen to buy NHL team

Russian billionaire Alexander Medvedev, who has been a thorn in the side of the NHL this season, claims he is looking at buying one of its franchises.

Russian billionaire Alexander Medvedev, who has been a thorn in the side of the NHL this season, claims he is looking at buying an NHL team.

"Actually, we have considered 10 opportunities and we're doing due diligence on three teams," Medvedev told reporters Tuesday following an oldtimers' game at the world men's hockey championship in Zurich, Switzerland.

"It will help us make our decisions."

Medvedev, who is deputy chairman of Gasprom, the world's biggest natural gas producer, would not say which teams he is looking at, but hinted he thinks the NHL should put more teams in Canada.

"We find it strange that hockey cities like Quebec City do not have an NHL team," he said.

Medvedev can say what he wants, but one would have to think the chances of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman welcoming him with open arms as an owner are remote, at best.

Medvedev is the man behind Russia's Kontinental Hockey League — he serves as league president — and he is the person the NHL blames for the fact there exists no transfer agreement between the NHL and European federations to pay for development fees.

Medvedev was elected to the governing executive council of the International Ice Hockey Federation last spring, and the buzz was he could cut a deal with the NHL.

But European officials now quietly say all he has done is antagonize the NHL.

The NHL has accused the KHL of poaching NHL players under contract. For example, Alexander Radulov returned to Russia this season rather than honour his pact with the Nashville Predators.

Moreover, many Russians still under contract and playing in the minor leagues signed with a KHL team.

Medvedev is scheduled to meet with NHL executive vice-president Bill Daly and Paul Kelly, the executive director of the NHL Players' Association, later this week as a member of the IIHF's executive council.

But Medvedev made it clear that no negotiations toward an umbrella transfer agreement are planned, at least not in his mind.

"There will be no negotiations, just discussions and talks," he said.

As for the KHL, Medvedev said the global economic crisis has impacted the upstart league, and the 24-team league could shrink.

"We have taken measures to stop the escalation of salaries, so every good player will be well paid and average players should get average salary, [and] those teams who still have outstanding debts, in respect to salaries at the end of May, will void the right to play," he said. "We do not need clubs with debt."

On another front, Medvedev said there has been contact with a representative of five Swedish teams about forming a pan-European league.

The five biggest teams in Sweden's Elite League recently served notice they are leaving, possibly to form another alternative to the NHL or to join the KHL.

Medvedev said that former NHL forward Hakan Loob, now the general manager of Sweden's Farjestad BK, wrote him a letter requesting a meeting.

"They want to make a presentation in respect of the future of European hockey," Medvedev said.

Medvedev hopes to meet with Loob next month.