NHL to send Europeans home
The International Ice Hockey Federation and the NHL inched closer to a transfer agreement after the NHL conceded too many young Europeans are playing in North American minor leagues.
IIHF president Rene Fasel along with representatives from Europe's top five hockey nations (Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden), met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL Players' Association in New York on Wednesday in an effort to hammer out a transfer agreement.
The NHL agreed to a proposal that any player still under contract to an IIHF team who has not reached his 20th birthday must be offered back to his team in Europe.
The new proposal raises the age limit by two years from 18 but will not include players taken in the first round of the NHL draft.
"We were satisfied that both the league and their players' association share the same concern with too many young European players coming over to North America before they are NHL ready," Fasel said in a statement on Thursday. "As we share the concern, we still have different opinions about which are the correct measures to address this problem, but one major issue which we agreed upon is to increase the age by which a player who does not make the NHL team's roster must be first offered back to his European team."
According to the IIHF, out of the 59 European players who were signed by NHL clubs prior to the 2007-2008 season only six are on NHL rosters, 46 were assigned to the minor leagues and seven returned to their European clubs.
The existing IIHF-NHL deal is a four-year agreement signed last season but both sides decided to re-open it before a January 1st, 2008 deadline.
The Russian Ice Hockey Federation refused to sign the accord while other countries have since joined the Russian opposition seeking a better deal.
The IIHF, NHL and the NHLPA are considering an interim framework agreement for the 2008-2009 season which, if approved, would regulate transfers of European players who sign NHL contracts for the 2008-2009 season.
"This way we are buying ourselves some time to be able to fully evaluate the effects on the movement of players from Europe to North America and to use those results when trying to reach a new long-term agreement for 2009 and beyond," said Fasel.