The ongoing battle between the KHL and NHL is about to get even more interesting this summer.
The NHL, which seems to mostly be in the position of protecting its players from KHL poaching and nothing more, isn't so proactive with their "rival" league across the globe. The KHL? Well, it is very proactive in trying to get the best Russian/Eastern European players to stay in the KHL.
The latest move is going to add another level of intrigue for free agents in the NHL. From Slava Malamud of Sov Sport:
And here goes KHL, doing its thing again. The league announces that all returning Russian NHLers will not count against the salary cap.— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) May 13, 2012
Now, each KHL team will be limited to one such signing. Still, this should enable the rich clubs to back up the cash truck to Radulov, Semin— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) May 13, 2012
Adding to it, the teams couldn't use it for just any old player, either. It would have to be approved as a player "worthy" of a big-bucks deal.
Well, then, that puts a monkey in the wrench, doesn't it? Radulov was likely heading back to the KHL next season anyway considering his contract status with Salavat, the team he has played for the past three seasons. As part of the agreement for him to come to the NHL, they retained negotiating rights with him. Now they could offer him a much bigger deal that could entice him to stick in Russia for a long time to come.
Then there is Semin, the Capitals forward who is an unrestricted free agent this summer. The options for Semin don't seem to be terribly plentiful in the NHL considering where his contract has been, like the $6.7 million he made this season. Based on his performance the past two seasons, it's hard to believe any team is going to give him that kind of money again.
Add in the fact that Semin still doesn't speak English -- obviously something that hasn't stopped him up to this point -- and you see a player who many think could be a KHL defectee in the first place. Now with this it becomes an even more interesting option.
The idea isn't completely unique. You might remember that Major League Soccer instituted a similar rule that allowed its clubs to sign one prime free agent that would be exempt to the normal contractual rules, designed to get bigger names and raise the league's profile. That's how David Beckham became a member of the L.A. Galaxy.