Friday, September 21, 2012

More NHL Players Flocking to Europe, Tyler Seguin and Other Bruins Among Them

The flow of NHL players signing with European teams remains steady. Tyler Seguin will go to Switzerland, signing with EHC Biel. Andrew Ference will play in the Czech Republic for HC Ceske Budejovice. There are reports that Czech native David Krejci will also be playing in his home country. Russian backup goalie Anton Khudobin has signed with HC Atlant Moscow Oblast of the KHL.

Alex Ovechkin will also be in the KHL, signing with Dynamo Moscow. The LA King's Anze Kopitar will play for the Swedish team Mora IK. Jason Spezza is going to Switzerland to play for Rapperswil-Jona. Logan Couture will play in Geneva, also in the Swiss league.

I don't know how much leverage this gives the players. Their salaries over there aren't much lower than their NHL contracts, and checks from KHL teams are tax free. A guy like Alex Ovechkin can pocket more playing in Russia than he can in the US or Canada.

But not every NHLer will find work in Europe. Enforcers like Shawn Thornton wouldn't be allowed to fight in European hockey. And while a Swiss or Czech team might pay big Euros for the star appeal of a Tyler Seguin, the lower tiers of players won't get much money in Europe.

Rules also prevent teams from stocking up on imported talent.

Then again, this helps the players at least survive a long-term lockout. While the NHL is cutting its payroll by 20% and owners will lose money with every game not played. This has become a battle of attrition, siege warfare, and the players might have the long-term supplies necessary to outlast the owners.

If I were a program director at ESPN, I'd try to negotiate for the broadcasting rights of the KHL and the Swiss National League A. You might not get many viewers in the US, but Canadians will be desperate for quality hockey. Hockey is their heroin, and they'll be jonesing for a fix. Canadians will endure the 8 hour time difference and stay up all night to see Dynamo Moscow play Atlant Moscow, and HC Davos take on Geneva. It's the only way they'll be able to sleep.

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