Russian federation refuses to sign player transfer deal

GENEVA -- The Russian hockey federation refused to sign the
player transfer agreement between the NHL and the International Ice
Hockey Federation, a move the sport's governing body said could
jeopardize the NHL's participation at the 2006 Olympics.

The Russians -- the only European federation to reject the deal
between the IIHF and the NHL -- didn't sign because their clubs
unanimously rejected it at a meeting Monday.

"We do not yet consider the matter closed," NHL deputy
commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We
are hopeful to be able to sit down with the Russian federation in
the next several days to discuss whatever concerns they might have
in entering into a new agreement."

IIHF president Rene Fasel is planning an emergency trip to
Moscow, hoping to get the Russian federation to sign. It is unclear
if the NHL would ratify a deal that doesn't include the Russians.

"If the agreement doesn't happen, if Rene Fasel can't persuade
them to change their minds, we will have a chaotic situation on the
transfer market," IIHF spokesman Szymon Szemberg told the AP.

"Everything between the IIHF and the NHL in the collective
bargaining agreement would be void," Szemberg added. "There would
be no NHL participation at the Olympics, at the world championships
or a possible World Cup. There would be no transfer agreement."

The new agreement increases the amount of compensation that the
NHL pays to European federations in exchange for signing players.

In the new five-year plan, the NHL would pay $12.5 million
annually to a development fund managed by the sport's governing
body -- a $3.5 million increase from the previous deal.

The IIHF distributes the money among the national federations
and clubs that lose players to the NHL based on a formula devised
by the IIHF and the national federations.

A player picked first overall in the NHL draft is worth
$900,000, with each successive pick down to 30th decreasing by
$20,000. Later draft picks are valued at $150,000 each.

The new formula was designed largely to satisfy the Russian
clubs, which regularly lose their top prospects to the NHL.

"We still believe that the framework we have had in place for
the last 10 years now has served the sport of hockey well," Daly

But the Russians want to negotiate their own transfer deals
directly with NHL clubs so they can get more money, Szemberg said.

"Local clubs do not object to signing an agreement that is
equal for all and not one-sided," Russia's Professional Hockey
League vice president Vladimir Shalayev said.

Russian team Avangard Omsk would have liked to deal directly
with the Washington Capitals when Alexander Ovechkin -- the No. 1
pick in the 2004 NHL draft -- opted out of his contract with the
Russian Super League club.

By not signing the new agreement, however, Russian clubs risk
losing players for nothing.

"Without this agreement, [the NHL] can really take any player
it wants at any time without any compensation," Szemberg said.

Szemberg said the agreement also limits the number of players
that can leave Europe annually and imposes a transfer deadline.

"The Russians are willing to discuss it further, so you have to
be optimistic," Szemberg said.