Former New York Islanders star Alexei Yashin(notes) spent last season with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, the club Evgeni Nabokov joined this summer. It is also the club that Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) has an offer from.
As of Friday, Yashin is still without a club. SKA made him an offer that Alexei is not in a hurry to accept. His agent, Mark Gandler, spoke with Dmitry Ponomarenko of Sovetsky Sport to offer his insight:
"We still don't have any news," he said. "Perhaps there will be some clarity with Alexei's contract in the next few days. But there is nothing certain yet."
Q. What is the sticking point? On what terms Yashin and SKA cannot agree on?
GANDLER: I cannot get into details, I don't want to bring these aspects to the media. But the negotiation is ongoing. It is a dialogue and not silence on our part. It is a normal, business discussion. Yes, it is delayed a little bit, but there is nothing out of the ordinary here.
You can't help but think that Yashin's contract is directly tied to Kovalchuk's contracts. It is possible that [SKA] don't have enough money for the two famous players? If they sign Kovalchuk, they will say no to Yashin. And if they don't, they will give Alexei a contract that will satisfy him?
I don't think there is a direct link. Maybe only in theory. ... But previously the SKA management in a personal conversation with me stated that they want to sign both Alexei and Ilya.
Does Alexei have a possibility of coming back to the NHL, or is he fully concentrated on finding a job in [the KHL]?
There is a club that is constantly showing interest in him. It is the New York Islanders.
Alexei has a great relationship with its owner. That's why if he decides to come back to the NHL, then he will first have negotiations just with [the NYI owner]. However, I will be frank that this is a difficult step for the forward. Right now Alexei has just adapted to European-size rinks, got used to the KHL hockey, understood the tactics that lets him play in Russia with results. The reverse process will again require a lot of time. Hockey in the KHL and the NHL is too different.
And if you take the financial side of the question, it is more lucrative for Yashin to play in Russia. Therefore, the KHL is our priority right now. To run from league to league is not a good thing for a professional.
In your opinion is hockey in the NHL and the KHL really all that different?
Here's a simple example. I am watching an overtime in a KHL game and can't believe my eyes — defensemen are waiting for 15-20 seconds behind the net while there is a line change. Even though the last seconds of the game are melting on the scoreboard. And there is no urgency in the team's actions! No one is in a hurry, not running. ... This needs to change!
For the purpose of entertainment, the rink [size] should be reduced. The quickness, the action is needed. In the NHL there is not even a second to think. Russian specialists sometimes call North American hockey confusing, but spectators are crazy about it. And it's not only hockey. Other sports are progressing. In soccer and box new rules are adopted to make matches exciting to the max, to make them more dynamic.
Could Yashin stay with SKA? Or does he have a firm desire to change clubs?
Alexei did not have any personal problems either in the locker room or with the team management or the team coaches. He may very well stay in St. Petersburg.
Are there other KHL clubs interested in Alexei?
Right now I don't want to talk about it. It is inconsiderate and won't bring us any benefit.
Maybe the delay in signing a contract is connected with the novelty of the KHL regulations? That's because right now player earnings are divided in two parts. For the regular season a player will get only 70 percent of the contract. The remaining 30 percent in full only for winning the Gagarin Cup. It's natural that it doesn't suit a lot of players...
Of course, it became sort of a [point of disagreement] in a lot of negotiations. But what can you do? We have to work with this rule. It delays contract signing. We have to fight for the interests of our clients. Can it be any other way?
I would look at this problem more broadly. First of all, right now there aren't that many Russian players left in the NHL. Secondly, players in the NHL have long-term deals that are impossible to cut short. Moreover, it is impossible to lure a player who is at the peak of his game from the best league in the world only with money. And the level of the NHL is ranked higher in the world. I see that there is another serious problem that emerged in the KHL because of the relationship between the two leagues.
Right now [a player] may become a free agent at the age of 27 and even younger. That's why all the clubs' money goes to young promising players. They very quickly brought up with teams. Because of it games become faster and tougher. Veterans are edged out and they find work in the KHL. Because of it your league is quickly getting older. That's why there is less speed there which affects the entertainment [value]. Here the player has the time to stand around, to take a rest, to think. ... The KHL has made huge steps in its development in two years. But already it needs to think about the age [of the players] now.