KHL Teams Could Fold Due to Russian Economy

The Kontinental Hockey League was founded back in 2008 with the intention of being a rival to the “world’s best” National Hockey League. The KHL currently has 28 clubs in seven countries, and of those, 22 teams are in Russia. With the economic downward spiral of the ruble, due to decreasing oil prices, and sanctions over Russia’s actions in the Ukraine, those clubs could be forced to fold at the end of this season.

Many teams in the Russian-based league are owned and operated by wealthy oil companies, which are in financial disarray, and as such are having trouble supporting player salaries. KHL league president Dmitry Chernyshenko has said “The League’s financial situation is stable and we’re looking calmly at the current economic situation, and the season will be finished as planned.” Atlant club president, and former Quebec Nordiques star player Valeri Kamensky told the Sovetsky Sport newspaper that the club was a month behind in paying salaries, and asked if his team could be shut down this season, and replied “I don’t believe so. But in life, anything can happen.”

The KHL has been known to lure players away from the NHL with big money contracts with a lower tax rate than the United States. For example, former NHL forward Ilya Kovalchuk had 12 years, and $77 million left on his contract with the New Jersey Devils, but on July 11, 2013 he chose to retire from the NHL at the age of 30 to return home to play for SKA Saint Petersburg. On July 15, 2013 he signed a four-year deal, worth a reported $20 million per season. So, with the recent news of the plummeting Russian ruble, how many players currently in the KHL are going to want to jump ship and possibly return to the NHL? Could the KHL and its financial problems be the catalyst for players like Kovalchuk, and Alexander Radulov to inquire about interest from NHL teams following this season?


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