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European countries reopen player transfer agreement with NHL

GENEVA - Six major hockey nations decided Thursday to renegotiate the current agreement regulating player transfers from Europe to the NHL.

The Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland decided to exercise their right to revisit the deal between the International Ice Hockey Federation member associations, their leagues and the National Hockey League.

The IIHF said the move was mutual as the NHL decided on Dec. 11 to exercise the same right. The sides will likely meet in January to discuss which parts of the agreement they want to tweak.

European members worry that rich North American teams are hurting the quality of their domestic leagues by luring away too many undeveloped players, who only end up in the minor leagues. Of the 59 European players who signed NHL contracts before this season, only six were good enough to play in the NHL. Seven returned to European clubs, while 46 were assigned to North American minor leagues.

The members also want an earlier deadline for NHL clubs to sign players during the off-season.

In addition, European associations want better compensation from the NHL when it signs players. European members have been losing out with the devaluation of the American dollar.

"We listened to the reasons from the associations and their leagues and discussed in depth the most important concerns," IIHF President Rene Fasel said. "Following the discussion it became obvious that the concerns made it legitimate to exercise the right to reopen."

Fasel insisted that IIHF members were not seeking confrontation.

The current IIHF-NHL deal was a four-year agreement covering 2007-2011, but parties could give notice about wanting to renegotiate it before Jan. 1, 2008.

The deal regulates transfers to the NHL from all non-North American IIHF-affiliated associations and leagues except Russia. It stipulates financial compensation, a limit on the number of players that can leave Europe annually, and imposes a transfer deadline.

If no new agreement is reached, the IIHF-NHL PTA will expire after the 2007-2008 season.

The IIHF and the NHL have had agreements in place for more than a decade. The most recent two-year agreement did not include Russia because it wants the NHL to honour its league contracts.

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