Hockey Headlines

Monday, 1 May 2017

International Business Report

The logo to the left belongs to Rosneft, one of Russia's largest oil producers. Actually, it's now THE largest since it won a bid with the Russian government in October to buy the Russian government's 50.08% stake in Bashneft, the state-run oil producer. With the Russian government looking to shrink its budget deficits, it has begun selling off government-owned departments to private corporations with this sale having netted the government a cool $5.3 billion in revenue. While there are all sorts of conflicts of interest among the parties who swung the deal based on their personal, business, and government ties, this business deal also reaches and affects the hockey world in Russia. I bet you were wondering when I was going to swing this back to hockey, right?

Where hockey is affected is that Rosneft owns CSKA and Bashneft owns Salavat Yulaev Ufa. Or they once did. With Bashneft now being controlled by Rosneft, Rosneft effectively owns Salavat as well. While this situation presents a major conflict of interest on its own, the waters only get murkier as player movement in the KHL begins to happen now that they have reached their off-season.

Salavat has a number of solid players, but perhaps their best player is Minnesota Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov. The 20 year-old, 2015 fifth-round pick set the Russian record for goals at a World Junior Championship this past winter when he scored nine in the tournament, leading both the tournament in goals and in points with twelve. He also set the record for most points in the KHL by a player 20 years-old or younger with 42 this year, breaking Evgeny Kuznetsov's mark of 41 from the 2011-12 season. Ufa has themselves a heckuva prospect.

However, back in February, Igor Eronko tweeted out some surprising news.
If this seems a little odd, we're in the same boat. Why would Salavat agree to move one of their best players who had incredible chemistry with Linus Omark this season to CSKA? And if they had agreed to this, who was coming back in return?

Officially, Salavat Yulaev Ufa traded Kaprizov to CSKA for cash, and, according to Slava Malamud, Salavat had little say in the matter.
Yikes. I'm not here to point fingers and rant about corruption, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck you better believe we're talking about one of the most corrupt leagues in the world. The conflicts of interest alone should have red flags being raised all over the place for players, but when you see a "deal" like this go down because CSKA is trying to keep pace with the SKA St. Petersburgs of the league, you know there's a problem that runs deep in the KHL.

This isn't the only deal that CSKA has swung this week in trying to improve the team.
Here's where thing get ugly. I have yet to find any information on who owns Sibir Novosibirsk on any website, but Maxim Shalunov - another high-scoring Russian prospect - signs a new deal with a team that missed the playoffs this year due to not having enough regulation wins, and then is immediately traded to CSKA? While I get that the teams who spend rubles like money is no object will always win in Russia, the gap between the elite and the have-nots is growing exponentially. Hey, that's almost similar to the Russian economy!

Political commentary aside, CSKA's main rival in SKA St. Petersburg decided to bolster their roster by adding a couple of familiar names today as well. While these two probably won't be joining the team anytime soon, the fact that they could make the jump towards the ends of their careers like Pavel Datsyuk did makes SKA a little more intriguing.
Kucherov will be paid handsomely by the Tampa Bay Lightning when his contract comes up, but perhaps Nail Yakupov has tired of watching from the press box in St. Louis to consider a jump back home and play for SKA. With the possibility that Ilya Kovalchuk might re-join the NHL, there would be an open roster spot on SKA for a player who can score goals. Yakupov probably won't get a contract offer anything near to his current one, so I'm expecting him to possibly be the next "former NHL star" to join SKA.

Don't quote me on this, folks, but I'm going to guess that the arms race in the KHL's Western Conference will see one of SKA or CSKA come out on top in 2017-18 when it comes to playing for the Gagarin Cup. It's hard to beat teams that have no limit on spending, acquire every other teams' best players, and have owners who treat the lesser teams that they own in the same league like their own farm teams for their main teams. Nothing like a little corruption to set the week off right!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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