The International Ice Hockey Federation has ruled in favor of the Philadelphia Flyers by agreeing that Russian goaltender Ivan Fedotov had a valid NHL contract for the upcoming season when he signed with CSKA Moscow in the KHL.
The decision rendered Monday paves the way for Fedotov to play in North America, like he planned to do a year ago before being conscripted into the Russian military.
It was not immediately clear if he'd seek to leave Russia to play in North America. Relations between Russia and the U.S. are strained over the war in Ukraine, the NHL cut ties in Russia last year and no transfer agreement exists between the league and the KHL.
Fedotov, drafted by the Flyers in 2015, signed a one-year contract with them in May 2022. He said during the Beijing Olympics earlier that year and he was expecting to go to the NHL.
Instead, last summer his NHL agent, J.P. Barry, said Fedotov was taken to a remote military base in northern Russia. The Flyers as a result tolled his contract to the 2023-24 season.
CSKA announced last month it signed Fedotov to a two-year contract. Fedotov at the time said he completed his military service, according to comments reported by Russian government daily newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
The IIHF, hockey's world governing board, determined the deal to be a breach of international transfer regulations because Fedotov did not obtain a release from his contract with the Flyers and sanctioned him and CSKA. Fedotov, 26, was given a four-month IIHF suspension from Sept. 1-Dec. 31, though it was not clear how that would affect him playing in games in either the NHL or KHL.
Fedotov would not be suspended from NHL games if he performs in accordance with his contract with the Flyers, deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed.
CSKA was given a one-year ban through Aug. 10, 2024, on international transfers. The Russian Hockey Federation in a statement said it would provide full support if CSKA decides to appeal.
The KHL said it would comment only after taking time to study the ruling. CSKA said in a statement that Fedotov was with the team at training camp in Belarus and that management "has no doubt that Ivan will take part in the upcoming season," alleging the IIHF ruling is biased and "aimed at protecting the interests of the NHL."
Messages sent from The Associated Press to the IIHF and Flyers seeking comment were not immediately returned.
CSKA, whose name translates to "Central Sports Club of the Army," was founded as the Soviet army's hockey team in 1946 and still has traditional ties to the military. It is owned by Rosneft, a Russian state-run oil company.
Fedotov is considered one of the top goalie prospects not currently in the NHL, and the Flyers hoped he would be a part of their future. He helped the Russians reach the Olympic final before losing to Finland and helped CSKA win the Gagarin Cup as KHL champion, earning first-team All-Star honors.
Since signing Fedotov and expecting him to compete for the backup job last season, the Flyers have launched into a long-term rebuild under new president of hockey operations Keith Jones and general manager Danny Briere, who was promoted to replace fired executive Chuck Fletcher. The team already has a logjam in net but could trade starter Carter Hart to make room for Fedotov.