"After agreeing to terms on a contract with, we learned that he had already committed to a team in the K.H.L.," said Atlanta general manager Don Waddell in response to an e-mail inquiry late Thursday. "Therefore we have rescinded our offer and have been told that Joel will honor his agreement with St. Petersburg."
Kwiatkowski is a 32-year-old defenceman who has played all of 282 NHL games, so you'll forgive me for not making a huge deal out of the fact he signed with the Thrashers three days ago.
Then, on Wednesday, the KHL raised a huge stink over the signing, with KHL president and St. Petersburg head Alex Medvedev blowing his stack over the "scandalous situation" in the local press (my thanks to Tuvan from Japers' Rink for the translation, available here):
"We assumed that the KHL and NHL would honor a gentleman’s agreement" said Medvedev. "Therefore we didn’t sign a single player having an NHL contract. We didn’t even make any offers, even though agents for a whole host of world-class hockey players themselves came to the KHL clubs with the desire to enter into contract negotiations."
"Please notice that, unlike in the NHL, we have a procedure for dissolution of active contracts. We aren’t familiar with the slave-holding rules which are applied to NHL players. We understand that there are a lot of different circumstances—personal, family, medical…"
"And now, to our surprise, we found out that Atlanta has, beyond any shadow of a doubt, signed a player who already has a two-year contract with SKA. And Atlanta didn’t even see fit to consult with either the KHL or the St. Petersburg team."
There's apparently been an enormous fuss over the contract made in Russia, and one of the questions Medvedev was even asked was if a KHL team should now offer Ilya Kovalchuk a $20-million per year contract as a way of punishing the Thrashers.
Late last night, as quoted above, Waddell and the Thrashers rescinded the offer, likely after pressure from the NHL and IIHF over the dispute.
Which is where Jiri Hudler comes in.
As TSN's Darren Dreger outlined earlier today, Hudler is about to become the focal point of a similar dispute, with this one pitting the Red Wings against the KHL. Hudler's signed a very lucrative two-year deal with Dynamo Moscow but has "played the field" to a degree by also filing for arbitration in the NHL, and that's where the fight's going to begin.
Dreger writes that the NHL "has approached both the IIHF and KHL, seeking their intervention. According to the NHL, Hudler is contractually obligated to the Red Wings for next season."
In general terms, going to arbitration doesn't necessarily guarantee a player he'll have a contract, and Hudler remains a restricted free agent for the time being. Given it doesn't appear he'll come to terms with Detroit of his own accord, an arbitrator will then come up with a contract figure that the Red Wings can then walk away from.
At that point, Hudler would be an unrestricted free agent.
Is he "contractually obligated," then, simply by electing for arbitration? I suppose we'll find out. He wasn't able to receive an offer sheet from another NHL club, at least.
I can't help but see some linkage here between the fact the NHL so easily rescinded Kwiatkowski's deal, enforcing the "gentleman's agreement," and that they're now fighting for Hudler to be released from his.
If that's the trade, the KHL loses out.