NHL Agrees to New ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ With KHL in Effort to Avoid Contract Disputes

NHL Agrees to New 'Memorandum of Understanding' With KHL in Effort to Avoid Contract DisputesWell, at least the NHL can come to an agreement with somebody.

The owners’ aggressive initial proposal to the NHL Players’ Association reveals that the two sides are a long way from finding common ground for a new collective bargaining agreement, but the NHL did reach one accord.

The NHL and the Kontinental Hockey League have agreed to a new “Memorandum of Understanding” in regard to player movement between the two leagues. This latest agreement went into effect on Monday and extends the previous pact put in place last year.

According to the KHL web site, the agreement “confirms the need to respect the professional contracts of players in both leagues and obliges both parties to regularly follow a set of procedures designed to avoid conflict situations arising during the transfer of players from one league to the other.”

The agreement was signed by KHL president Alexander Medvedev and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and will be in effect until June 30, 2013.

“The new Memorandum is yet another very important stage of progress between the KHL and the NHL,” Medvedev said in a statement. “The previous agreement ran for one year, during which there was not a single failure — every transfer of a player between one league and the other was conducted without a single conflict situation arising. This shows how both organizations are playing by the same rules. In the near future we will be able to regulate with more precision any transfers of players from the NHL to the KHL and vice versa.”

The agreement consists of eight points, covering an exchange of information on all player contracts and lists of free agents in both leagues, an acknowledgment to respect contracts in the other league and a process to negotiate any disputes.

The eighth and final point did leave open the possibility for some discord however, by closing with the statement that, “In the event of any failure to reach a consensus, each party reserves the right to act in the way it considers appropriate in such circumstances.”

Just prior to that, the agreement also states that both leagues “are obliged to do everything in their power to reach a consensus concerning each player’s disputed contract status, including cases of labor conflicts, contractual disputes, etc.”

The inclusion of a provision mentioning labor conflicts doesn’t bode well, but isn’t necessarily a reason to believe either side is anticipating an NHL lockout this year. It is more likely simply legalese attempting to cover all possibilities, though the fact that each league has “the right to act in the way it considers appropriate” could make things interesting if there is a lockout and players seek employment in the KHL as an alternative, then could be faced with conflicting contractual claims if the lockout is lifted during the season.

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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