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European federations, leagues ratify new agreement but Russia holds out

The Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland signed the 2007-2011 deal between the IIHF member associations, their leagues and the NHL.

As with the previous agreement, Russia held out, the IIHF said.

The deal regulates transfers to the NHL from all non-North American IIHF-affiliated associations and leagues, except Russia. It stipulates financial compensation, a limit on the number of players that can leave Europe annually, and imposes a transfer deadline.

In the 2006-2007 NHL-season, 259 players - 27.4 per cent - were from IIHF-affiliated national associations outside of North America, according to the IIHF.

The IIHF and the NHL have had agreements in place for the last 12 years. The most recent two-year agreement did not include Russia because it wants the NHL to honour its league contracts.

By refusing to sign, the Russian federation risks losing its players for nothing.

NHL clubs are forbidden from acquiring players already under contract in Russia, but can take free agents without paying compensation.

Current labour laws in Russia allow players such as Pittsburgh Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin to give their club little notice before terminating a contract, freeing them to sign with an NHL team. An amendment to the law is expected to be implemented soon, preventing players from escaping so quickly.

Highlights of the new agreement include:

-The deadline for signing players under contract is June 15, for each of the four years. IIHF players subject to NHL draft-related rights and who have not yet signed an NHL contract must be signed by the NHL team by June 1 in any year of the current agreement.

-Players not under contract to an IIHF team may be signed by an NHL team at any time.

-The NHL pays a development fee of US$9 million for the first 45 players - US$200,000 per player. If more than 45 IIHF players are signed, the NHL pays an additional US$200,000 for each extra player.

-Players selected in the NHL draft can be signed until July 15 or Aug. 15 in the year they are drafted. The NHL pays an additional fee of US$100,000 for signing players in the later window between July 16 and Aug. 15.

-The IIHF is compensated for players who are signed by NHL clubs but who are not on the team's roster for at least 30 games - including playoffs - in their first season. Those funds - between US$50,000 and US$100,000 depending on draft round selection - will be used for IIHF player transfers to the NHL which are outside the agreement.

-The agreement also regulates the release of NHL players to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and the world championships.

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