Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bad news: the Russians AREN'T coming

Shitty.
Russia will not join the IIHF-NHL hockey agreement that regulates transfers between European clubs and the American league, the head of the Russian Hockey Federation (RHF) said Wednesday.

"At the talks with the IIHF [International Ice Hockey Federation] and the NHL [National Hockey League]... we failed to take into full account the interests of Russian clubs, which have players that interest the NHL," Vladislav Tretyak, who was elected the head of the RHF in April, said.

"The RHF therefore decided it was impossible for Russia to join this transfer agreement."

What this means for our beloved Senators is that the gaping hole at center on the second line we assumed would be filled by Russian phenom Alexei Kaigodorov will now have fall onto someone else's shoulders.

It is possible Kaigodorov, who still has a valid contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Elite League, will come over anyway. The Sens could try and negotiate a deal with the club on their own, but considering the 23-year-old is one of their best players, it'll cost a pretty penny. Or he could go the legal battle route ala Alexander Semin and the Washington Capitals last season. Either one is a big headache though.

In all likelyhood, Kai isn't coming over this season though, which has to disappoint the club. Just yesterday, GM John Muckler was on The Team 1200's afternoon show and said the Russian was now the club's #1 priority as far as offseason moves. Previously, Mucks talked about how Kaigodorov could center Daniel Alfredsson, which says a lot about how the brass perceive him.

So what will the Sens do?

In theory, it's possible they promote someone already inside the system. I had Mike Fisher penciled as the third line center and Chris Kelly as the fourth, but they could move up a line. Antoine Vermette, who I had on the third line left wing, can play center with ease, so that's a possibility.

But none of these are the best case scenario.

What about those players still available on the open market. If Kaigodorov is not coming over, his $700,000 or so can be spent elsewhere. Who's left?

Jason Allison, Yanic Perreault, Greg Johnson, and Jan Hrdina are the most noteworthy names. See the problem?

Allison can produce points, but the rest of his game is such a nightmare that would not be wise. Perreault might be a good pick-up but I'm not convinced he's a true second line center at this point in his career. I am convinced neither Johnson or Hrdina are, nor were they ever.

This is when the trade talks heat up, I imagine. I talked last week about the fact the Sens are rich in defencemen and so it makes sense, now that we know the hole won't be filled by the skilled Russian, to explore plugging one weakness by dealing a a strength.

Anton Volchenkov is either fifth or sixth on the depth chart from where I sit, which is sort of problematic when you realize he makes $1.25 mil. Yet, the Russian bruiser is still highly regarded around the league. Every trade rumor the Sens were a part of involved his name. We've since learned he and Vermette were who the St. Louis Blues wanted for Doug Weight back in January.

He's a valuable asset, and could likely bring back something of value. Throw his $1.25 mil salary and the $700K we alotted for Kai, and you got $2 million to play with.

Should be interesting.

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