Friday, August 04, 2006

Building False Hope?

Or just getting the usual special treatment?

So one day after I say that the Rooskies aren't coming, Evgeni Malkin gives his two week notice to Metallurg, publicly opens negotiations with the Penguins, and TSN.ca almost hands Malkin the Calder Trophy.

Reality check here folks, the same Russian labor laws that allows Malkin to get out of his contract with a simple two week notice also allows employers to seek damages against an employee who uses the two week notice to leave their job. Metallurg is entitled to sue Malkin for damages and prevent his departure.

The TSN story linked here weasel worded it and pulled a little obfuscation to boot.

The news comes after NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the paper that there will be no transfer agreement between the Russian Hockey Federation and the NHL for this upcoming season, but noted that if players currently on contract with Russian teams can secure their own release, they could still sign with NHL teams this season.

I added emphasis to the important point. I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see Metallurg slap a lawsuit on Malkin.

A lawsuit will throw the whole thing into disarray. Some have tried pointing to the lawsuit that Moscow Dynamo filed in U.S. court against A.O., which was dismissed, as proof that there is nothing to worry about from a Metallurg lawsuit. While it was nice to see U.S. Courts for once refusing to apply foreign laws in U.S. courts, the D.C. Circuit Court was being asked to enforce an arbitration board ruling, not a Russian Court ruling. That arbitration board ruling came only after the Caps had slapped a lawsuit on Alexander Semin and his U.S. based agent and was dubious to begin with. Dynamo tried to argue that after being found in breach of contract, they matched the offer to A.O. but omitted the opt out clause. Either way, it wasn't a court ruling but an arbitration board ruling that the D.C. Circuit was being asked to uphold.

While I doubt that the U.S. Courts will get involved this time around (and they shouldn't). The NHL has two options should Metallurg throw the Malkin contract into dispute. They can ignore their statements about releases and allow Malkin to play. They however run the risk of alienating the IIHF and other European Hockey Federations in the process. This isn't a good idea because the NHL's transfer agreement with the IIHF expires after the next offseason and ignoring contracts in force (or at least in flux) would not be a good way to as they say to "win friends and influence people."

Or the NHL could do what it has always done and play favorites. They allowed Mario Lemieux to become the first owner to ever suit up and play for this team. They slapped him with a criminally low $500 fine for coming out of the penalty box and charging after veteran referee Kerry Fraser in 1994. (Lemieux also stated that he would no longer help to promote the league and threatened to retire because of all the hooking and holding he had to endure.) Considering the Lemieuxesque treatment the NHL has already begun to bestow on Secondary Assist Sydney Crosby, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if the NHL went ahead and allowed Malkin to play in the NHL while his Russian contract remains in limbo. The NHL for whatever reason wants to protect and promote to the hilt a team that has more bankruptcies than Stanley Cups and can't get the local politicians behind an effort to keep the team from moving. Why this is I don't know, but it is long past time the NHL stopped blatantly playing favorites.

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