by PuckStopsHere on 10/31/08 at 04:48 PM ET
Although Russians make up some of the most talented players in the NHL today (including reigning MVP Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and current top scorers Alexander Semin of Washington and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins) there influx of players from Russia is strongly in decline. In fact there are only two Russian rookies in the league so far this year. Russian players tend to be staying at home due to the lack of transfer agreement and due to better opportunities in their homeland.
When the pipeline of players has become as weak as to only produce two new players in a season, any further losses of players are significant. During the years of no transfer agreement, approximately three or four Russian players a year have headed back to Russia during the NHL season. They have generally been AHL players who were help to under $100,000 salaries per year while in the minors due to two way contracts that would be subject to re-entry waivers if they were paid higher.
The latest player in North America to depart is Pavel Valentenko of the Montreal Canadiens.
Valentenko is a Russian defenceman who was playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. He spent last season in the AHL and looked likely to remain there this year at least for the foreseeable future.
Valentenko had been given a leave of absence to return to Russia for “personal and family reasons” after playing four games so far this season. While there, he decided not to return to North America. He signed a three year contract with Dynamo Moscow of the KHL.
The lack of a transfer agreement means that there is very little Montreal can do about this. In the summer, the KHL and NHL agreed to respect each other’s contracts and not sign players under contract, but both sides have made questionable signings that appear to violate that agreement. Although the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has been attempting to rule on these cases, they have little power. The most high profile case is that of former Nashville Predator Alexander Radulov who is suspended by the IIHF and starring with Ufa Salavat Yulayev in the KHL. The IIHF has not ability to prevent him from playing.
The problem in the case of these players is that players who are not an instant NHLers and need a little bit of minor league experience before joining the NHL seem to jump back to Russia before getting their NHL chance. Many NHL players spend time in the AHL before becoming valuable NHLers. Top scorer Alexander Semin spent some time in the AHL and was almost lost to Russia due to transfer disagreements.
Whether or not Pavel Valentenko turns out to be a good player or not, he is likely lost the NHL. He is lost the way Roman Voloshenko, Igor Grigorenko, Alexei Mikhnov and others are lost. Some of that group would have been good NHLers had the NHL been able to retain them.
Here is TSN’s story on Valentenko returning to Russia.
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