The Jiri Hudler saga has finally come to an end -- thank goodness! And as has been typical in this situation, it wasn't your straight forward arbitration hearing either.
According to Ansar Khan at MLive.com, the two sides reached a gentleman's agreement before the start of arbitration. Why didn't they just sign the contract before heading into the hearing?
In effect, the Wings and Hudler agreed to the deal before last Thursday's arbitration hearing. But lawyers for both sides still went through the process. Hudler didn't want the Kontinental Hockey League to think he got an NHL contract through negotiation, possibly jeopardizing his deal with Dynamo. He wanted it done through arbitration, since the KHL has taken the stance that restricted free agents, even if they file for arbitration, don't have a contract and are thus free to sign in Russia.
The arbitrator awarded Hudler $2.75 million in the first year of his contract and $3 million in the second year. He will be placed on the suspended list so that his contract does not count against the cap.
The award finally ends all of the drama that has surrounded Hudler, the Wings, and the NHL/KHL situation. Hudler will play in Russia this season and possibly the next. He may or may not return to the NHL, but if he does return he must abide by the two-year deal awarded to him. GM Ken Holland expects Hudler to return (via Detroit Free Press) and believes he has an out clause in his contract after his first season in the KHL.
"He's obviously going to Russia because it's an opportunity for a financial windfall," Holland said. "But right now his plans are to come back to the NHL and to come back to the Wings."
Here's a quick recap of what has happened over the past month:
- Hudler filed for arbitration on July 5. It wasn't a surprising development at the time, but Wings fans still anticipated that Holland would be able to re-sign the Czech forward.
- Three days later, rumors start to crop up saying that Hudler has signed with a KHL team. One reporter speculates that it could be a negotiating ploy.
- By July 9, it becomes clear that Hudler has inked a deal with Dynamo Moscow. WIM discussed how it would impact the Wings, but it meant the Wings had to find a way to fill the void after losing 88 goals.
- The NHL then filed a complaint to the IIHF about the KHL signing on July 10. They said that Hudler filing for arbitration was basically an equivalent to him signing a contract with the Wings. The KHL argued that as a restricted free agent who had yet to agree to a deal with Detroit, Hudler was free to sign elsewhere. It was at this point that some Detroit fans thought Hudler would have to play in Detroit against his will -- not really something that appealed to Wings fans.
- On July 16, the KHL president told reporters that the league would not register Hudler's contract until after the arbitrator's decision, thinking that if the Wings walked away from his awarded contract there would no longer be any problems.
- The Wings had been prepared to move on and find another forward or two to fill the void shortly after Hudler signed with Dynamo. Unfortunately, the NHL's grievance put the Red Wings in a holding pattern because they couldn't risk signing someone and then having Hudler return and put them over the cap maximum limit.
- Hudler was to have his arbitration hearing on July 30, but news tricked out shortly before the hearing that the KHL had registered his contract -- going back on their previous statement.
- We finally get word of the arbitrator's decision on August 3, which was a salary that the Wings should feel comfortable paying upon Hudler's return to the NHL.