1) What we initially mentioned in passing the other day with regard to the NHL proposal, that it might in the long term be a huge and fundamental change in the balance of power in the hockey world. Specifically we mentioned that the KHL is probably happy with the possibility that the NHL will be limiting the NHL players salary's. In increasing the rookie or entry salary cap to 5 years we would possibly see fewer and fewer Russians and Euros in general coming over the pond to play. Being that the KHL has no such limitation we would probably see fewer gifted Russians take the pay cut to play in the NHL. Already we see players like Evgeny Kuznetzov, who the Capitals selected as their number 1 pick 2 years ago, opt to stay in the KHL and make much more money than the relative pittance they would get even with bonuses rookies can attain. How many fewer would come over if that rule is extended 2 additional seasons?
2) Some say correctly that the KHL (as currently constituted) is inferior to the NHL and that few players other than a select few stars at the ends of their careers or fringe players end up playing there. Well, that may be the case now, but the combination of economic realities in the rest of Europe coupled with the likely new NHL CBA we very well might see the KHL decide to go ahead with their long rumoured/promised westward expansion. Already we know they will be expanding-to-italy-in-2012 why not Finland, Germany, or either/both of the former Czech-Slovakia countries as starters? Their is money in oil/gas in Russia so there probably won't be any shortage of cash there, and competing leagues in Europe won't be able to match the money that the KHL might be able to toss at stars.
3) Imagine if the new CBA, which would ostensibly limit salary to under 1 million without bonuses for 5 years, was in effect now? Anyone think that the NHL's top overall pick Nail Yakupov would accept that instead of a likely 10 mil/year to stay in his native homeland? As we already alluded, its already happened to the Washington Capitals with their 2010 pick. Kuznetzov, the hero of the 2010 world junior tourney signed a 2 year 2 million dollar (tax free) deal. In US terms that would amount to be almost 2.5 mil to play at home, a shorter season and not be under the same scrutiny as he would be here. Look for a WHA/NHL type competition we saw back in the early 70's. We believe that not only will Russians bolt to stay home, but Europeans in general will take a second look at the KHL option. This will be especialy true once the KHL expands into more taditional European markets.
4) We believe the NHL will continue to Poo-poo the talk of a rival league, but there is a reason the NHL has been playing games in Europe the past few seasons. Not only for the money, but they want the exposure to influence younger players to play for the prestigious Stanley Cup. Problem is, outside of North America, 'The Cup' doesn't have the emotional pull it has here. Ask your average Euro/Russian in private, and they'll tell you winning the world championships/Olympics is the biggest prize to them.
We also want to remind our readers who have not been with us from the start, we have been WAY out in front of this. We did a post 4 years ago about this very possibility: to-russia-with-love. In that post we mention that in order for the KHL to become a true rival league we'd have to see:
- the NHL salary cap begins to contract
- If there is any new work stoppage in the NHL