NHL not expecting visa issues for returning Russian players, deputy commissioner Bill Daly says

The NHL doesn't anticipate any Russian players having issues with obtaining visas this season, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN on Wednesday.

"We're expecting them all to be good -- and in North America," Daly said while attending the league's European media tour in Paris. "That whole situation is difficult, but kind of out of our hands. So just like with the pandemic, and with many issues, we looked to the governing agencies to make those decisions. And we played by the rules."

Agents who represent Russian players told ESPN that the process for reapplying for visas has been more complicated than in years past -- and slower. Since the U.S. consulate in Moscow has suspended visa services, many Russian-born players have flown to other countries to get their paperwork approved.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, it has been unclear how the situation would affect Russian players. Last season, just under 60 Russian-born players appeared in an NHL game. Many in the scouting community predicted that Russians would be shut out of the first round of the draft for the first time since 2005, given the uncertainty of the situation and potential travel restrictions. However, three Russian players were selected in the first round in July: Pavel Mintyukov (Anaheim Ducks, No. 10), Ivan Miroshnichenko (Washington Capitals, No. 20) and Danila Yurov (Minnesota Wild, No. 24).

The NHL has condemned Russia's invasion and immediately suspended all business relations with the country, including the league's relationship with the Kontinental Hockey League -- widely believed to be the second-best hockey league in the world -- and the Russian Federation.

There is still an existing memorandum of understanding between the NHL and KHL, which requires both leagues to respect each other's player contracts.

Asked if there were any concerns about that memorandum being violated and KHL teams potentially poaching players under NHL contract, Daly said: "That's a good question."

"I want to see what happens this current season," Daly said. "I don't really know one way or the other yet."

Before the Stanley Cup Final, the league announced that the cup would not be traveling to Russia this summer. That decision affected Colorado Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin, who was not able to have his customary celebratory day with the cup in his home country.

Since the war in Ukraine began, Daly said the league's top concern has been the "safety and security" of its players.

"We were concerned about what the reactions in North America might be, and we certainly had some on social media who were threatening," Daly said. "We enhanced security around our Russian players and have been able to maintain that safety and security. I think most importantly, they feel safe and they feel protected. That was the most important issue."