June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Nail Yakupov puts on an Oilers jersey after being selected as the number one overall draft pick to the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
The 2012 NHL lockout is at the end of its first week, with preseason games having already been canceled. No progress has been made since it started, and players are already signing with teams in Europe.
It's been a full week, and the NHL has not met with the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA). Reportedly, there have been some phone calls, but other than that, no meetings have happened. The NHL has officially canceled all preseason games through 30 September.
Alex Ovechkin, the Russian captain and star of the Washington Capitals, has suggested that he may not come back to North American to play if the NHL gets its way and rolls back player salaries. Ovechkin has a lot of influence with other Russian players, so others my try to follow him, if he does that. However, there's been some confusion as to whether he can legally do that or not, as he does have eight years left on his contract with the Capitals.
As of today, almost 60 NHLers have signed with teams in ten European countries. [MAP] Many are still taking a wait-and-see approach, and others are organizing individual charity tournaments. In the province of Quebec, two players are organizing a caravan league that plays only on the weekends.
Up until yesterday, NHLers were not allowed to play in the Swedish Elite League (or Elitserien). The SEL had said that if NHLers wanted to play there, then they needed to sign for the entire season. No out-clauses were going to be allowed. NHLers had been able to sign with the lower league, Allsvenskan, but not with the Eliteserien.
An anti-trust ruling in Sweden changed all of that. Within hours of the Swedish Competition Authority's ruling, an SEL team signed one NHLer, while another team was reportedly in discussions with another player. There was talk of an appeal by the Eliteserien, but no one's sure at this time if the anti-trust ruling will be overturned.
What may become a stumbling block for NHLers signing elsewhere is the International Ice Hockey Federation's (IIHF) international transfer agreements. According to the Toronto Star:
The basic reasons for the transfer card process are:
-To have all international transfers accounted for
-To protect clubs from players under contract simply leaving or players who have not fulfilled contractual obligations (like returning a car which was given to him by the club)
-Making sure players who are suspended in one league don't jump leagues and continue playing while suspended
The club that signs the player begins the transfer card process.
This goes through an approval process with the IIHF. There have been rumors that, since there has been an unprecedented delay in giving Edmonton Oilers' top prospect Nail Yakupov his transfer card, that perhaps the NHL has been trying to deliberately throw a wrench into the works. The NHL naturally denies being a part of the process, and the IIHF won't comment.
The NHL has no official role with the IIHF - not even an advisory one. However, NHL ownership decides whether or not NHL players will be able to participate in the Olympics and other international tournaments. And the IIHF wants the visibility that NHL players bring to their events, then they'll make an effort to stay on the good side of the NHL.