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Dreger: Is the KHL a threat to the NHL?

Darren Dreger
9/5/2008 11:22:33 PM
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Is there a real threat that other NHL stars will follow Alexander Radulov's lead and bolt overseas to play in Europe?

According to the players - yes.

According to the National Hockey League - no.

However, until Russia's Kontinental Hockey League - the KHL - expands its membership to other countries such as the Czech Republic and Sweden, NHL players say the threat of losing other star players remains minimal.

Playing conditions in Russia are still generally regarded as inferior. But if Stockholm or Prague were to host teams in the KHL, the belief is some star players would make the switch.

Earlier this summer, speculation arose that a KHL team was preparing a $100 million offer in an attempt to lure Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin home.

The offer was never made, but sources insist there were backroom discussions of such a plan which was rumored to include $50 million up front and $10 million net in salary annually.

As it stands, the KHL is propped up by big business and government and the NHL says the Russian economy won't support this league without that help.

The NHL also indicated that expansion to European markets is part of a long-term strategy and discussions with the players' association in New York this week included the need for a more aggressive European plan.

It's a plan the NHL says will be aimed at significantly increasing the league's presence and branding in Europe over the next three-to-five years.

It may start with more NHL teams playing more games in European arenas.

NHL game coverage, a broader television package and the introduction of new media to promote hockey are also considered key.

Darren Dreger

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