The Kontinental Hockey League has seen some of its top talent go stateside this past offseason in a trend which might continue going forward.

Arguably the KHL’s most talented forward, Alexander Radulov, signed a one-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens to return to the NHL after a four-season absence. Signing a one-year deal at just under $6 million, Radulov wanted to play with the best talent in the league. The same goes for Nikita Zaitsev, who signed an entry-level deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The new reality is that the KHL can’t compete with keeping prime talent away from the NHL.

What’s the reason for the exodus? It’s all about skill and money. The obvious difference between the NHL and KHL is the talent level. Players like Radulov, who feel they’ve accomplished all they can in Russia, can face tougher competition and eventually earn more money doing so. With Russia’s ruble falling and the KHL rumored to be contracting teams due to financial pressure, going to North America can provide financial reassurance and opportunity.

In an excellent feature, Michael Traikos of the National Post talked with players and executives about the KHL becoming a breeding ground for cheaper talent. An anonymous player agent said there are mutual benefits for KHL players joining the NHL.

“The established players know the league they’re playing in is crap, so they are going to the best league in the world. And the NHL needs cheaper players,” said a player agent who requested his name was not used. “Radulov might not be a cheap player (his $5.75-million cap hit is second among Montreal forwards), but for what he delivers every night, he is a cheap player. Zaitsev and Panarin are entry-level players.

Obviously, not every signing is a home run. But the KHL has become an affordable market for NHL team’s to acquire talent, and the promise of opportunity and stability might be too much to decline for some. Unless the KHL can fix its financial outlook, the trend will continue.

[National Post]

About Liam McGuire

Social +Staff writer for The Comeback & Awful Announcing.