NHL, KHL at odds over contract statuses

It appears the National Hockey League could be butting heads again with Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League over a player contract.

Last summer the two leagues squabbled over winger Alexander Radulov, who signed with Ufa Salavat Yulayev of the KHL while still under contract with the Nashville Predators.

This summer the problem is with Detroit Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler.

The story so far: Hudler, a restricted free agent, filed for salary arbitration over two weeks ago after failing to reach terms on a new contract with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, who wants to re-sign the winger but currently has limited cap space.

Hudler earned $1.15 million last season and could be in line to triple his salary after posting career-best numbers of 23 goals and 57 points in 82 games. The Wings however currently have around $1.8 million in available cap space, meaning Holland would have to dump some salary to give Hudler a big raise.

On July 8 came the surprising news Hudler had signed a two-year contract with Moscow Dynamo of the KHL. He claimed he only wanted to play for the Red Wings but the money being offer by Dynamo — reportedly $5 million tax-free per season — was too good to pass up.

Holland seemed resigned that Hudler probably wouldn’t be back even though the winger informed his agent to continue pursuing his arbitration case with the Wings.

That’s when NHL headquarters stepped in, contesting the Dynamo contract with both the KHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) on the grounds Hudler’s filing for salary arbitration signaled his intent to play in the NHL next season, thus making him contractually obligated to the Red Wings.

Since then there’s been almost no further news on the subject which suggests both leagues could be gearing up for yet another hearing with the IIHF.

In the case of Radulov, the KHL claimed his contract with Ufa was valid as he signed it prior to an agreement between the two leagues not to sign players currently under contract.

The KHL could claim Hudler’s contract with Dynamo should be valid citing the Atlanta Thrashers recently signing former NHL defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski, who was still under contract with SKA St. Petersburg. His contract with the Thrashers was nullified by the NHL after complaints from the Russian league.

Article 12 of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement indicates a team which qualifies the rights of a restricted free agent who subsequently files for arbitration retains those rights unless the club rejects the arbitration award. It would appear therefore that Hudler had no right to sign with Moscow Dynamo.

This has the potential to drag on into next season and — depending on the outcome — could end up testing the “anti-poaching” agreement between the two leagues.

Ousted GM deserves credit for shaping Blackhawks

The recent firing of Dale Tallon as general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks raised eyebrows around the NHL, earning the club — in particular, team president John McDonough — scorn for the callous treatment of Tallon, who was moved to the position of senior advisor with the club.

In Tuesday’s press conference confirming Tallon’s removal as general manager and introducing assistant GM Stan Bowman as his replacement, McDonough suggested it was a clerical error — failing to meet the league deadline for filing qualifying offers to their restricted free agents — which led to the move.

Critics in the media and blogosphere however cited rumors Tallon and McDonough didn’t see eye-to-eye on many issues and the latter was merely looking for an excuse to oust the former in favor of Bowman, son of senior advisor and coaching legend Scotty Bowman.

The criticism ramped significantly when former Blackhawks winger Martin Havlat — via his Twitter account and an exclusive interview with TSN.ca — directly criticized the move, even claiming the reason he wasn’t re-signed by the club this summer was he was too closely linked to Tallon.

Whatever the reasons behind Tallon’s ouster, he deserves much of the credit for the club’s improvement from a laughingstock when he took over as general manager in June 2005 to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender four years later.

Tallon made his share of mistakes (most involved overpaying for unrestricted free agents like Nikolai Khabibulin, Adrian Aucoin, Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet) but it should be noted those signings were made with the approval of his supervisors.

But Tallon also drafted young superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who should go on to become the twin cornerstones of the franchise the way Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita were during their glory days in the 1960s.

The club also developed young talent well, as draft picks made before Tallon took over as general manager, such as Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Cam Barker, Dave Bolland and Dustin Byfuglien, blossomed into quality NHL players under his watch.

Tallon also brought in talent via trades, such as Havlat, Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd, who would become valuable components in the club’s recent success.

McDonough and Bowman will take the bows if in the near future the Blackhawks go on to become a Stanley Cup champion, but Tallon’s the reason they’re poised to potentially reach that goal.