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Puckarinen Hits A Post

Show me the rubles

Funny how money changes things, and makes people dream. Five years ago, I didn’t see many Swedish or Finnish players proclaiming their eternal desire to play in Russia in the media. Today, that is the dream. For players who don’t make it to the NHL, that is.

The latest to get his dream fulfilled is Linus Videll, who leaves Solna (Stockholm) AIK immediately, to play for Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk in the KHL.

“I’ve always wanted to get to the KHL so I am extremely grateful to AIK for giving me this chance,” said Videll who has collected 12 points in 14 games this season.

He’s eighth in the league in scoring, and second on the team that’s 9th in the standings, a point out of the playoffs. But for a club strapped for money, with declining attendances, saying “nyet” becomes increasingly difficult. Especially when the player in question has an out clause to leave for the KHL next season, and especially when the club in question also faces increased costs due to the police’s new plan to invoice them for security services during games.

In Finland, Tappara defenseman Tuukka Mäntylä played 12 games in the SM-liiga, collected 11 points, leading the team in scoring, before he signed with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk in the KHL. When Mäntylä signed his 10-year-deal with Tappara in 2009, he got in a clause that allows him to play three seasons outside Finland, and that he could even leave in the middle of a season.

But, on the other hand, Swedish Daniel Fernholm and Björn Melin were recently released by their KHL clubs, Atlant Mytishchi and Dinamo Riga, respectively, returning a solid defenseman and a power forward into the market, balancing things off.

Only, both players decided not to re-enter the Swedish league, or more importantly, Sweden, so that the Swedish taxman couldn’t his hands on the KHL money. 

“It was a choice between Elitserien and the Finnish SM-liiga, but we had to take into consideration tax laws and such things,” said Fernholm’s agent.

“That’s why Helsinki IFK feels good, and very positive even as far as hockey is concerned. This way, Daniel won’t get taxed in Sweden, which he would have, had he chosen a Swedish club,” he added.

Melin, in turn, signed with Rauma Lukko in the Finnish SM-liiga.

Not all teams can sign new players just like that. Espoo Blues has only averaged 3241 spectators in their seven Finnish league home games this season, down over a thousand spectators from last year’s average of 4357 (in 30 home games).

The club’s owner, Finnish businessman Jussi Salonoja, recently said that he was looking to sell his interest in the club that was 1.8 million euro in the red last season. Salonoja told Finnish Ilta-Sanomat that the hockey club has cost him 10.5 million euro in the last five years.

Last season, KHL President Alexander Medvedev was quoted as saying that Blues was “close to joining” the KHL.

A rich Russian picking up the tab? That’s everybody’s dream now.

Risto Pakarinen, a Finnish freelance writer, started his Russian studies … right now. You can follow him on Twitter as Puckarinen.

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About Puckarinen Hits A Post

Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden.

That's right, he's deep behind the enemy lines. He's also a regular contributor to IIHF.com, NHL.com, The Hockey News, and several publications in Finland and Sweden. He's also covered four World Championships and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for the IIHF.

And since he foolishly hoisted the Stanley Cup in his twenties, he wakes up every morning knowing he will never be able to win it.