KHL OKs deal with Red Wings' Hudler
Russia's Kontinental Hockey League registered Jiri Hudler's two-year, $10-million US contract with Dynamo Moscow on Thursday, the latest salvo in the league's battle with the NHL over restricted free agents.
Hudler, 25, earned $1.15 million with the Detroit Red Wings last season when he notched 57 points (23 goals) in the final year of his contract. The Czech reportedly turned down Detroit's offer of $3 million per year for up to five years, and the two sides went to salary arbitration.
The NHL has agreements in place with other professional leagues that prohibit the poaching of restricted free agents, but no such deal exists with the KHL.
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Hudler's agent and Red Wings representatives attended a salary arbitration hearing Thursday morning in Toronto. In the event Hudler returns from Russia in the future, the hearing will determine his salary in a one-year contract with the Red Wings.
General manager Ken Holland, whose team has little room left under the salary cap, said he expects a ruling in the next few days.
"My hope is that [Hudler] goes to Russia and he wants to come back and he's a better player," Holland said. "The cap maybe goes up a little bit and we're sitting at a real good situation."
An NHL player who files for salary arbitration remains under control of his team, and can't sign with another NHL club. The KHL, though, sees restricted free agents like Hudler as fair game that can be lured with more lucrative offers.
The KHL previously filed Hudler's contract on July 9, but held off on the deal pending negotiations between the two leagues.
A statement from the Russian league cited two NHL teams' pursuit of players under contract with KHL clubs and a lack of a player-transfer agreement between the leagues as the impetus for approving Hudler's deal with Moscow.
"I think they're trying to justify what is clearly an interference with contract by raising non-analogous situations," deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly said.
The two KHL players in question — forwards Evgeni Dadonov and Sergei Shirokov — were drafted by the Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks in the 2007 and 2006 drafts, respectively. Dadonov has signed a contract with the Panthers while Shirokov, currently a member of HC CSKA Moscow, is being pursued by the Canucks.
Dadonov "provided evidence at the time he signed and registered his NHL contract that his contract had expired," Daly said.
Tensions between the NHL and KHL intensified last summer when then-Nashville Predators forward Alexander Radulov signed with the KHL's Salavat Yulaev Ufa even though he still had one more year left on his contract with Nashville.
KHL spokesman Shawn McBride warned Thursday that situations like Radulov's and Hudler's could continue to arise.
"This could and should and would be all resolved if there was a transfer agreement," McBride said. "As the KHL continues to prove to be a viable option for players by a competitive and financial standpoint, you can only expect there to be more situations, not less of players looking abroad."
With files from the Associated Press