Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he hopes the Kontinental Hockey League will expand to include clubs in central and western Europe. The Interfax news agency reported that Putin said the KHL, which comprises teams from Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan, should expand beyond the former Soviet Union and "become a pan-European league."
Hockey's a big deal for some of Russia's power brokers, and I'm not surprised they see the next horizon as expansion westward into Europe.
I'm not overly familiar with the merits of every European league, but it would seem to me that the Czech Republic and Slovakian teams could be targets given their geographical proximity and fairly low financial standards at the moment. A large city like Prague could likely easily support a team playing in a more well moneyed league than the current Czech Extraliga.
The capital cities in Finland and Sweden are also very close to a KHL hub city like Saint Petersburg, and from that standpoint, wouldn't make bad partners.
It would likely take a major shift in some of those other European leagues for teams to decide to move, but that's not altogether out of the question. I've heard plenty of stories of players paid peanuts in the Czech league and financial turmoil for Finnish teams, and if the KHL can find its footing economically, it could potentially be able to woo a top club from a struggling league.
And moving into Stockholm, Helsinki or Prague while offering KHL-calibre salaries could present an interesting challenge for some of the NHL's depth talent.