NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn/ file
The NHL met with the International Ice Hockey Federation and other European hockey officials Wednesday in an attempt to iron out issues related to the player transfer agreement.
At the five-hour meeting in New York on Wednesday was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, IIHF president Rene Fasel, NHL Players' Association executive director Paul Kelly, NHLPA general counsel Ian Penny and federation officials from Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and most importantly, Russia.
The Russians have not been part of the current player transfer agreement - an important framework that regulates how the NHL is allowed to draft and sign European players. The current IIHF-NHL deal was a four-year agreement that began last season, but gave both sides the option to re-open it before Jan. 1, 2008. That's exactly what transpired last month when the NHL and the European federations mutually agreed to re-open it.
"It went well today," Daly told The Canadian Press on Wednesday night. "We went through our respective views of what was transpiring and the possible causes. We share the same concern with respect to too many young players coming to North America before they are ready to play in the NHL. We talked about possible ways to address it. We have conceived of a possible short-term interim framework to give us more time for us to evaluate what's going on in the market place.
"That framework is subject to all of the parties going back to their respective constituencies to discuss its merits."
Both the NHL and IIHF essentially agree on the biggest problem with the current agreement, that too many young European players are signed and come over to North America before they are ready. Of the 59 European players that signed NHL contracts for 2007-08, the IIHF says only six currently play in the NHL. Seven were returned to Europe and 46 are in North American minor leagues.
"This is detrimental to player development and to the European leagues," Fasel said last month.
The NHL agrees, especially since the current agreement sees the league pay US$200,000 for each European transfer - whether they make the NHL or not.
The parties are hoping to meet again next month.