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The ‘Drafting A Russian’ Debate

from Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun,

Winnipeg Jet Alexander Burmistrov high-tails it to the KHL, at age 21.

Ilya Kovalchuk says nyet to some 77 million New Jersey Devil dollars and retires from the NHL to play shinny in his homeland.

Russian big wheels talk openly about trying to lure three-time Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin back to his old stomping grounds.

It all makes you wonder if NHL GMs from Winnipeg to Washington, and all stops in between, will start shying away from players who’ve popped from the womb of Mother Russia....

Certified by both the NHL Players Association and the KHL, Larionov represents players on both sides of this cold war, and yeah, he says attitudes towards his countrymen are cooling on this side of the pond.

“It’s only been three years since I’ve been working as an agent, and I can see that,” Larionov said in an interview, Friday. “I can sense that. Not from all of them. They’re still looking for skill, still looking for players that can make a play.

“You can’t really judge by one or two players, judge the whole nation, the whole talent from Russia. It’s all about circumstances, all about the advice they’ve been given by the people who represent them. And the financial side is also very important.”

Larionov’s advice might surprise you.


Filed in: NHL Teams, | KK Hockey | Permalink


J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Larionov has been saying the same thing for the three years he’s been an agent, so this isn’t really a surprise.  I appreciate Larionov’s honesty and pragmatism in a topic that’s becoming increasingly politicized (although perhaps being interested in signing people on both sides of the pond may be a bigger reason for such a balanced approach at the situation).

Fact of the matter is the NHL’s pay system where a player has to go through the entry level system and then the RFA system, which are both designed to limit a player’s earning power in what are prime productive years, is a system that’s going to welcome youngsters to explore ways to earn more.  Since Russian players are already in Russia, where they can get coddled by the Russian press and paid more for playing in an inferior league, it’s almost a no-brainer for many of them.

In many ways, post-Soviet Russia has created almost a better system for keeping their own hockey players local than the Iron Curtain could: you train the kids to never want to go and you train the other side to not want them. You let the exceptional ones go while constantly lamenting that they’re not there. For the non-exceptional ones, you essentially don’t talk about them at all or you only ever talk about them to lament how such a talented guy isn’t being given as much attention in North America as he would otherwise.

Right now it’s not a big problem for the NHL because highly-talented kids from North America aren’t exploring that route currently and it may never become a big enough problem, but it is a good reason why the number of Russians in the NHL is dwindling and ultimately, I don’t think that’s what’s best for hockey.

Sadly, that leaves me to either hope the NHL changes their EL & RFA systems (which they won’t) or the KHL adopts that system (which they won’t), or that the money backing the KHL’s ability to pay the players as much dries up (which creates a whole new set of problems where there’s less international competition to the NHL, giving the league more leverage for future CBA negotiations)

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/07/13 at 10:09 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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