Just when I thought we had all moved on, the Jiri Hudler saga has once again reared its ugly head. Seriously, between this and the handshake incident, I feel like I’ve spent my whole summer discussing stories that won’t go away. Like zombies that just won’t die. Anyway, according to Cult of Hockey, the IIHF has refused Hudler’s transfer card. Without the transfer card, he can’t play in any IIHF-sanctioned games, including those in the KHL. My biggest question at this point is why the IIHF took this long to reach their decision. I think the situation’s been pretty clear cut from the beginning. Not to mention the fact that waiting until now to make that ruling doesn’t benefit anyone involved, including the IIHF’s apparent BFF, the KHL. (Sorry, there’s a little bit of acronym overload going on there.)
Assuming this information is true, and that the IIHF doesn’t reverse its decision, this puts the Wings in a terrible spot cap-wise. Not to mention the fact that Hudler has to be feeling like got locked out of the house, pantless (although at this point I really don’t care how he feels personally).
If he can’t play in the KHL, his only real option would be to return to the NHL. And that’s where this becomes my problem. Even with Lilja starting the season on LTIR, Hudler’s return would put the Wings well over the salary cap, thus forcing Ken Holland to make some trades that probably wouldn’t make many fans very happy. There’s some good discussion of the Wings’ options over at Babcock’s Death Stare and On the Wings. Truth be told, none of the choices are particularly appealing. I really don’t see them shopping any of their long-time veterans around, and since nobody wanted to sign Williams, Bertuzzi, or Eaves as free agents it’s pretty safe to assume that nobody will want to trade for them either. That leaves the Wings with the option of putting Hudler on the market (If you were another GM, would you make an offer for him? I’m not sure I would. Who’s to say he won’t bolt for the KHL again down the road when things are worked out with the IIHF?) or trading one of the mid-priced guys who are supposed to play key roles this season. Any way you look at it, this is not just good news.
I do know of a couple of beer league teams who would love to have Hudler suit up for them. They’d probably even let him have a bigger leadership role if he asked for it.
UPDATE (8/26/09 8:15): Apparently the KHL will just ignore the IIHF and let Hudler play. And now back to my regularly scheduled boredom...