Sunday, August 3, 2008

Gabby's A Goner

According to the New York Times Hockey Blog, Slap Shot, Marian Gaborik's agent, Ron Salcer (or more likely a European representative) approached the Russian Superleague team Spartak Moscow with an inquiry about playing there this coming season. This would be another wrinkle in the League-Jumping Story which has been weaving in and out of the July free agent signing events, but more importantly, it shows how much Gabby wants out of Minnesota and how he'll be gone after his contract is up after this season.

It appears that Gabby's agent approached Spartak's preisdent, Nikoli Tishchenko about signing a contract with the club and forgoing his final year at Minnesota. In an interview with the Russian "Sports Express" newspaper Tishchenko claims "His agents were interested to speak with our club..." but the salary offer was "simply astronomical sum. Some people naively believe that all clubs in Russia are willing to pay huge money." It would make sense that Gabby would inquire with Spartak since that's where his buddy Branko Radivojevic landed after last season. Its not known whether Gabby knew how tight they were with the pursestrings.

Gaborik testing the KHL Super League waters is another incident between the KHL and NHL as they battle for the top players. The KHL was formed this summer as a new league from many older Russian hockey clubs. ranked the top 250 European teams and the KHL had six of the top ten. With an infusion of "new" Russian money, from oil and gas revenues to new millionaires to (quite likely) organized crime, they've been able to throw big contracts towards NHL'er trying to lure them over the Atlantic. Jaromir Jagr signed a two year, $25 million contract with Avangard Omsk. Ray Emery, Kyle Wanvig, and Wade Dubielewicz have also made their way over.

The problem has been that many players from both leagues have disregarded their current contract in order to play for the league overseas. In the NHL, Nashville forward Alexander Radulov has jumped town to sign a contract with Salivat Yulaev Ufa when he still has terms remaining on his U.S. contract. On the other hand, a bevy of young talent has pulled up the tent stakes on their KHF contract in order to play in the NHL, including Sergei's little brother Fyoder Fedorov, and the Wild's Tomas Mojzis. The I.I.H.F. has been called in to resolve any conflicts, but it seems as if these two leagues will be battling for supremacy for some time. That could mean problems for the NHL when their new agreement with the players has a strict salary cap and the KHL will be throwing large bags of cash at their best players.

This is just another sign that says Gabby has no plans of staying in Minnesota long term. Risebrough should be ready to sign Gabby this summer or be ready to trade him away. If #10 hits the ice this season without a long term contract in his back pocket, it would signify another failing on Doug Risebrough's tenure in Minnesota and perhaps his most significant of all.

Since Gabby will make $7.5 million this season, not a lot of teams will be interested in him. Additionally, I'm sure a few G.M.'s in the league are willing to to cede the Cup to Detroit now that they have all of the pieces plus Marian Hossa. If anyone wants to compete with Detroit, they would definately be interested in Gabby, but 7.5 mil for one season could be a lot for a player whose heart for the game is questionable.

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