What happens when KHL team refuses to pay its players? (Puck Daddy Interview)

Pirates vs Ice Caps. Jordan Szwarz of Portland beats Mark Dekanich of St. John's on a penalty shot during the second period. Photographed on Friday, March 122, 2013 -- (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Mark Dekanich just wants what he’s owed.

Dekanich, a 2006 fifth-round draft pick by the Nashville Predators, played the last two seasons with Medvescak Zagreb in the KHL. He claims the team owes him two months of salary from the 2014-15 season. 

“My wife and I are planning on trying to have children very soon and we had planned our financial future based on the guaranteed nature of my contracts,” Dekanich said via email to Puck Daddy. “The team is basically stealing from all of our families for work that we have already provided, all the while signing new players, holding training camp, and playing in the 2015/16 KHL season.”

In late July, the Colgate graduate took to Twitter to voice his frustration.

And he’s still waiting for his former club to pay him.

Dekanich made sure to point out this is not a KHL problem -- this is strictly an issue with his former team.

The falling Ruble has led to some level of instability with the KHL and questions about the solvency of the league moving forward. Is this symptomatic of those issues? It’s unclear, but it doesn’t sound great for players wanting to suit up for Medvescak.

In 2013-14 he had a 2.13 goals against average and .936 save percentage for Medvescak. Last season those numbers dropped considerably to a 4.76 GAA and .838 save percentage.

In his career, Dekanich has held an NHL one-way contract just once – in 2011-12 with the Columbus Blue Jackets and was slated to be the team’s backup goaltender. He fought injuries that entire season, and didn’t play an NHL game. He has played just 50 NHL minutes, in 2010-11 with the Nashville Predators 

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We asked Dekanich to tell us more about why he’s still owed payment.

Q: Do you know other players who have gone through the same thing with Zagreb?

DEKANICH: Yes, I personally know other players who played in Zagreb during their days in the EBEL. They all were owed money that was overdue at a certain time. I'm not sure if they ever received their earned wages in full.

Did you speak to any players before you signed over there about this kind of stuff? There are always rumors that KHL payments aren't exactly on time. 

I knew it was a risk inherent to playing overseas, but you never think it will happen to you - until it does. My father was born in Yugoslavia and I was excited to go back to my roots. The money promised and negotiated was a huge upgrade from what I made as an AHL salary the 2012/13 season in Saint John's. It was upgrading my family's quality of life as well as caliber of hockey.

Is it just your team, or are others have this type of issue?

I can only speak on the club that I was with. There are at least 10 of my teammates from last season who are owed huge chunks of salary from Medvescak 

What is your goal? To get paid? Bring awareness?

My goal is to be paid the salary that I earned for last season as negotiated in a binding contract as well as raise awareness of the issues that Medvescak has. My wife and I are planning on trying to have children very soon and we had planned our financial future based on the guaranteed nature of my contracts. The team is basically stealing from all of our families for work that we have already provided, all the while signing new players, holding training camp, and playing in the 2015/16 KHL season 

How much exactly are you owed by the team?

I am personally still owed over two months of salary. We are supposed to be paid monthly for nine months - September 5, 2014 - May 5, 2015. After our final game on February 22, the scheduled paycheck on March 5 never came. We were given a weak explanation that someone in our sponsor's payroll department was on vacation and that our payment would come in a few weeks. It obviously didn't and we have been strung along ever since with very small portions of what we are owed along and more unmet deadlines. They even tried to get us to sign a payment plan that would pay us out completely by July 2016, a month after their new team would be paid out in full! Few, if any, accepted this proposal and I certainly didn't as none of the previous deadlines the club gave us were met.

Have you gotten any response from them about payment?

Only false promises through emails of new deadlines and situations. After I finally voiced my situation on my personal Twitter page in July, the club stated publicly that I was not compensated due to performance reasons - which is not only completely false and unwarranted, but also slanderous. Salaries are not performance based, but personal bonuses can be awarded in contracts for performance benchmarks (as below).

After my tweets, I received threats via e-mail from the organization that if I spoke about not receiving salary on social media or to any media outlets, I would no longer receive the balance of my salary owed to me - the full amount of which was even acknowledged in a previous email from the club. I wrote the club a letter stating that they should retract their false statement to the media as well as pay me in full by a deadline they had suggested in another previous email. The letter was simply unacknowledged by all of the six people I had addressed it to, including the GM, sports manager, secretary, financial manager, and two PR representatives.

This was your second year with the team. Did they pay you the year before?  In your estimation does any of this have to do with the falling Ruble or the state of the Russian economy? 

My first year in Zagreb was great. The people and city are unbelievable and our fans are undoubtedly some of the best in Europe. They pay was on time with the exception of some bonuses after the season was over. I met a performance bonus, as well as the team bonus for making the playoffs, which we waited on for about 6 weeks past the contractual date.

Hindsight is 20/20 but looking back now, this could have been the first warning sign that the people running the club and their financial budget were inadequate. I don't believe the state of the Ruble or Russian economy is especially pertinent to my situation since our contracts were not negotiated in that currency. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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