After the NHL cut business relations with Russia recently, they’ve taken things even further in a memo sent to teams yesterday. Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff was first to report that the league has cut ties with the KHL following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, telling teams to cease contact and suspending the memorandum of understanding between the two leagues.
Bill Daly told clubs in the memo that they will now “have only limited contractual information regarding players who are currently or last played in the KHL.” Teams will now have to go through the Central Registry to request contract information on a player’s contractual status and produce “independent written evidence” that shows a player is entirely free of KHL obligations, before signing them for the 2022-23 season.
Previously the two leagues did not operate under a transfer agreement but had an MOU indicating that they would respect contract terms. According to Seravalli, the NHL has told the KHL that it will continue to respect existing and future contracts, though communication will now be cut off.
This will certainly complicate not only free agency but the upcoming draft, which was already a point of discussion given the possibility that young Russian athletes would be denied work visas to enter Canada and the United States. Danila Yurov, for instance, was expected to go near the top of the 2022 draft but is still under contract with Magnitogorsk for the 2022-23 season at least. Without continued communication, it’s hard to know whether an NHL team that drafts him will be able to even speak with the young forward, though the memo does indicate that teams are still allowed to work with North American-based agents.
There are also several pending KHL free agents like Andrei Kuzmenko who were expected to sign after the KHL playoffs are completed. Kuzmenko was drawing the attention of many NHL teams around the league after an outstanding season, where he scored 20 goals and 53 points in 45 games. It is now completely unclear whether his immediate future lies in North America or if he will re-sign in Russia and stay with SKA.