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New Kontinental Hockey League takes shape, sets rules

Russian Revolution in the Superleague is almost complete

Starting from the next year, the Russian Superleague won’t exist anymore. But this is not a sad news as it will be replaced by the brand new KHL (Kontinentalnaya hokkeynaya liga), a necessary step forward to improve the quality and the competitiveness of Russian and European hockey. There is surely a good boost in reducing the gap from Russia and the main rival, the National Hockey League.
The new league will resemble more the current NHL setup, as it can be seen in the things that will be introduced. Yesterday was held a meeting with all current Superleague representatives and most of the rules book is set.

Twenty-four teams, four division

The new KHL will probably count twenty-four teams, the currents Superleague clubs plus four news. Two of them are already announced, Barys Astana from Kazakhstan and Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg, currently battling in Vyschaya Liga (Russian second division) playoffs.
The teams have been split in four division with six teams each. To do this, KHL board used, and will use, a rating system, based off the results in the last five seasons. Clubs that never played in the Superleague start from zero. The teams will be placed in six ballot boxes in accordance with their KHL coefficient ranking, and a draw will decide the final divisions’ composition, that will change annually because of the 5-year rating.

This is how the pots appear:

1) Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Ak Bars Kazan, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
2) Avangard Omsk, CSKA Moscow, Khimik Mytischi, Dynamo Moscow
3) Lada Togliatti, SKA St.Petersburg, Severstal Cherepovets, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
4) Sibir Novosibirsk, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, HC MVD, Vityaz Chekhov
5) Spartak Moscow, Amur Khabarovsk, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, Traktor Chelyabinsk
6) Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg, Barys Astana

As said, the divisions are yet to be sorted, but they will be named after two former superstar, Bobrov and Kharlamov, and the two godfathers of Russian hockey, Tarasov and Chernyshev. The draw will be conducted probably in June.

Regular season and playoffs system

During the regular season, the teams will play four games against their division’s rivals, and two games against other division’s clubs, for a total of fifty-six games if the league will count twenty-four teams as planned. After the regular season the first sixteen will fight in the playoffs stage, with the first four seeds being the winner of each division, just like in the NHL. Playoffs’ first round will be a best-of-five series, while the latter rounds will be made up of best-of-seven battles, and the final winner will be awarded with the Gagarin Cup. This because the final match of the playoffs is supposed to be played in April 12th, the anniversary of Gagarin’s trip in the space.

Salary cap and contracts

The new league will also set rules for contracts. Like the past two years the league will have a salary cap system, but in the next season it will be different. Every team will have to spend a maximum of 562.500.000 roubles (roughly $23.5 mln), split in this way: 400.000.000 ($16.7 mln) for twenty-one players, 162.500.000 ($6.8 mln) for four “star” players. The teams must register for the competition not more than twenty-five players, and among these twenty-five every club has the right to register four “star” players. Three can be choosen freely by the club, plus another one who satisfies these requirements:

- has played not less than 40 matches (20 matches for goalkeepers) in the last NHL season
- is a junior player of Canadian or American nationality, but younger than 20 and selected in the first three rounds of the NHL entry draft
- is a player coming from European leagues that has played in the last World Championships or in the last Olympic tournament.

KHL will also use a new contract system, and three different types will be used:

- Standard “First team” contract – one-way
- Contract “First team plus farm team” – two-way
- Junior contract (agreement for studying in sport school)

Standard contracts can be signed by any player older than seventeen, but such young players must sign a four-year deal. Players locked by their team for the draft (another league’s innovation that will be described later) can sign the first contract at sixteen.
Players at first contract will earn 500.000 roubles if locked for the draft, 300.000 if selected in the first round. This sum will grow of the 20% in the second season, 30% in the third season and 50% for the fourth.
The farm teams will play in a league organized by the FHR.

KHL “Entry” Draft and “Waivers” Draft

The first KHL draft will be held in Moscow in July 2009, so it will start only from the second season of the new league. It will be held yearly and the teams will acquire the rights on European and North American players. Every team can lock up to three players from their junior team. The draft system plans compensations for the teams who pick a player from the school of another team in the process, 3.000.000 roubles for a first rounder, 2.000.000 for a second, and so on.
Additionally, before of the start of every season, a “waivers” draft will be conducted, in the fashion of the old waivers draft in the NHL. Every team will declare twenty players (two goalkeepers and eighteen skaters), the ones that aren’t declared can be chosen by other teams. Note that players with two-way contracts can’t be claimed. The order of this draft will be standings-reversed, meaning that the last placed team can select first, and so on.

Transfer market and imports rules

The transfer market will not be done with money and cheques, but with exchanges, like in the National Hockey League. After every player-exchange the players will keep their contract conditions. The players-exchange deadline is set for January 15th.
Also free agents rules have been changed, now “restricted” free agents movement will seek fix compensation between teams, matching half of the contract-offer.
The rosters must be not bigger than twenty-five players, with a maximum of five foreigners. In any match the teams can declare not more than four imports. The no-foreign-goalkeepers rule seems to be gone.

Minor changes

The new league set some other minor standards too. For example, now the coaches of the team can’t wear informal jeans in Bykov’s style, but will have to wear an elegant suit. Another change is that now the teams must wear dark jersey at home, and white or light jersey away, opposite as it is right now. The games will be scheduled slightly differently, in order to have more television visibility.

Story added on 13th March 2008 at 11:17 GMT
Story submitted by: Alessandro Seren Rosso.

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