Malkin affair illustrates that NHL needs upgraded PTA
Posted: Friday August 4, 2006 2:07PM; Updated: Monday September 11, 2006 6:47PM
Evgeni Malkin's Russian team was rightly outraged at the idea of being given only $200,000 from the NHL for him.
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The smart money said Evgeni Malkin would be wearing the black and yellow alongside Sidney Crosby on opening night of the 2006-07 season.
Malkin, the second overall pick in 2004, is a sublimely gifted center who some scouts believe to be the equal of Alexander Ovechkin. If he had signed with Pittsburgh, it would have been one more giant step toward respectability for the Pens.
Despite his stated desire to play in Pittsburgh, Malkin's arrival was not a sure thing. At issue: The absence of a signed player transfer agreement between the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and the NHL.
The transfer agreement is what allows players under contract in one country, in this case Russia, to come to the NHL. A set fee, generally $200,000, is paid to the country's federation to secure the player's release.
It wouldn't be an issue if only the Russians had capitulated like the Czechs, Swedes and Finns and signed the deal last year when it was offered to them. But after years of losing world-class talent such as Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk, and getting a couple nights' rent on a luxury suite in return, the RIHF said nyet to the standard deal. Good for them.
You can't blame the NHL for trying. After all, this is a country where the minimum wage has remained static at $5.15 for nearly a decade. You've got to save a few bucks where you can. But you don't want to financially strangle the goose that keeps laying golden eggs like Malkin and Ovechkin and Kovalchuk. And that's the real risk of the league's current approach.
Contrary to what they appear to believe, the NHL does not operate in a vacuum. The most international of the four major North American pro sports circuits, it relies heavily on European talent to stock its 30 teams. Having ready access to highly skilled workers, no matter where they're from, is good for business.
That's a fact readily accepted by the world's most international game, soccer. Transfer agreements in that sport allow the best players to move freely to the best teams in the best leagues ... at a fairly negotiated price.