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by Russell Brooks / Arizona Coyotes
Complex reports have surfaced lately regarding the eligibility of Viktor Tikhonov, the player the Coyotes selected with the 28th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Seeking a simplistic explanation, visited with Chris O’Hearn, Director of Hockey Administration for the Coyotes. O’Hearn is responsible for ensuring the legality of all player contracts plus transactions made by the team. This includes reassignments from the minor leagues along with placements on the injured-reserve and bereavement lists.

A few days after the team’s rookie camp ended in June, the Coyotes announced they had signed Tikhonov to a three-year entry-level deal on July 1.

What most people don’t know is that the NHL Central Registry rejected the contract submitted by the Coyotes.

The Registry, for technical reasons, rejects some contracts while others are denied because of a conflict with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Tikhonov’s case is a case of the latter.

The Coyotes submitted Tikhonov’s contract to the league knowing that it was going to be rejected by the NHL, according to O’Hearn. The reason for the rejection was the European Assignment Clause. Section 10 of a Standard Player Contract states, “It is mutually agreed that the Club shall have the right to Assign or to Loan this SPC, and the Player agrees to accept and be bound by such Assignment or Loan, and will faithfully perform and carry out this SPC with the same purpose and effect as if it had been entered into by the Player and such other club.”

Because of this clause, the player does not have the option to go back to a team in Europe if he is optioned to the minor leagues by the parent NHL team. In this case, if the Coyotes ever option Tikhonov to the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League, he would not have the option of going back to Russia and playing with a team there. This clause also covers a player being traded by a team.

When contracts are signed in the NHL, the league attempts to take the players’ rights away as far as where they want to play. In other words, the NHL expects a player to honor his contract. When Tikhonov signed his entry-level deal with the Coyotes, the wording of his contract allowed for him to leave for Russia if he was demoted from the Coyotes, according to O’Hearn. On the contrary, if he were ever recalled to the Coyotes, he would have to return to Phoenix from Russia.

Currently, there is a grievance ongoing in the NHL about contracts involving the European Assignment Clause. Due to the grievance, all contracts are being honored by the NHL, which allows Tikhonov to play with the Coyotes this upcoming season.

A separate issue is Tikhonov’s status with the IIHF, hockey’s international governing body.

Tikhonov is currently suspended by the IIHF, pending investigation, to make sure he did not have an existing contract with a Russian team when he signed his deal with the Coyotes. According to O’Hearn, Tikhonov’s contract with Severstal Cherepovets expired on April 30, 2008, therefore making his contract with the Coyotes legal.

Because the IIHF has yet to determine the validity of Tikhonov’s contract in Russia, it has suspended Tikhonov from all play in games involving the federation. Those types of games would include the Olympics and World Championship events.

When the legality of his contract status is acknowledged by the IIHF, Tikhonov will be allowed to resume international hockey activity.

Get all that?

If not, that’s OK. All Coyotes fans really need to know for now is that Tikhonov will be on the ice at Arena when training camp begins.
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