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Campbell's Cuts: New Russian league causing salary headaches for the NHL

Alexander Radulov celebrates his goal with teammates Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, and Marek Zidlicky during a game against the Detroit Red Wings. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Alexander Radulov celebrates his goal with teammates Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, and Marek Zidlicky during a game against the Detroit Red Wings. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

There have been a number of factors in the NHL’s salary explosion over the years, but the domino that started it all was the establishment of the World Hockey Association in 1972.

Thirty-six years later, players have to be just as excited about the Continental Hockey League because it’s essentially opening a whole new world of idiots who are willing to overpay for them. Think about it. The pool of misguided sports entrepreneurs has just grown from 30 to 54 and nothing illustrates that better than Alexander Radulov’s renegade deal with Ufa Salavat of the KHL.

Forget that the people who run Ufa don’t seem to have any regard for the sanctity of a contract, they don’t seem to have a very good grasp on hockey talent, either. In Radulov, they had a player who was disgruntled with his contract and his playing situation and wanted to return home, yet Ufa decided to give him $4.33 million a year for the next three seasons.

Who do these guys think they are, the Toronto Maple Leafs?

As of Monday, all appeared to be status quo on the Radulov front with respect to the validity of the deal he signed with Ufa, but the NHL maintains it will continue to take a hard line and insist that the KHL reject the contract outright based on the peace accord struck between the NHL and the KHL the day before the Radulov deal with Ufa was announced.

But even if Radulov is ordered to play for Nashville next season, the problem certainly doesn’t end there. First of all, Radulov will be the biggest sour puss of all-time if he’s forced to go and play in Nashville for $948,000 next season (remember Dear Reader, these people do not live in the real world). It will also likely mean Radulov’s deal with Ufa will simply be delayed a year.

What’s more, the new peace pact has no provision for tampering. If an NHL team were to approach Radulov with the prospect of signing a future deal while he was still under contract to the Predators, it would be subject to tampering charges with the price being draft picks and millions of dollars in fines. What power does the NHL have over Russian teams that tampered with its players?

None. Just like it has no power over having potentially 24 more teams willing to overpay its players. Surely, Ufa knows Radulov hasn’t even scored a total of 50 goals in his two NHL seasons and he’s prone to long periods of low productivity. Certainly they’re aware when the Predators needed him most in Games 5 and 6 of their first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings, Radulov ran and hid, going scoreless with just two shots and a minus-2 rating.

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Perhaps he was just scared to go in the corners after injuring teammate Jason Arnott during a goal celebration.

Not to worry, Ufa was still willing to give him the equivalent of $6 million a season, proving beyond a doubt sheer lunacy knows no borders when it comes to hockey.

It’s doubtful the KHL will be able to sustain these kinds of contracts, but it’s clear the league has every intention of making life miserable for the NHL, at least in the short term.

And that’s great news for the players.

CUP RUNNETH OVER WITH…YUCK
It’s great every player from the Stanley Cup-winning team gets a day during the summer with the most beautiful trophy in sports. By having the Cup for a day, the player gets to share his accomplishment with the people most important for his success and, in many cases, it’s also used for charitable causes and to brighten the lives of those who are less fortunate.

But with that privilege also comes a sense of responsibility. I’ve said it time and again, but no league cheapens itself more than the NHL and the kinds of things the Cup seems to be exposed to in the summer does nothing to change my opinion.

What else do you expect from a league that aligns itself with a potato chip company and allows Mark Messier to bring the Cup to your basement for a night?

The Cup, to a very small extent, belongs to us all. There’s nothing wrong with making it accessible to fans and allowing them to see it close up, touch it and have their pictures taken with it.

But then you hear things such as people eating ice cream out of it. Apparently that’s a pretty common occurrence. A couple of years ago, Kris Draper put his daughter in the bowl without a diaper on and she pooped in the Cup.

And nobody seems to have a problem with that.

It’s time the league and the Hall of Fame set guidelines for the treatment of the Cup and it’s time the players who received it take some personal responsibility for how they treat it when they have it in their possession.

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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