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Brathwaite Leaves Chicago for Russia?

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The Chicago Wolves have suspended goaltender Fred Brathwaite according to league transactions. According to some foreign newspapers he may be breaking his NHL contract to go back to Russia where he played for two seasons during the lockout and the season after.

What effect does this have on the Thrashers? On the down side it removes some depth from the organization. On the other hand it will mean that top prospect Pavelec sees a lot of ice time in the AHL.

Why did he leave? I don't know for certain but I can think of several potential causes for this development. Perhaps Brathwaite was frustrated about not being called up when Lehtonen went down. Perhaps he was losing starts to Pavelec in Chicago. Or maybe he can make more money in the Russian league.

What this does highlight is the increasing tension between the NHL and other European ice federations. The Russians rejected the IIHF transfer agreement that allows NHL teams to make binding contractual agreements with Russian players. The Russians argue that the compensation the NHL teams give to the Russian Ice Federation is not sufficient for the costs associated with developing young talent. Now recently another country has discussed opting out of the agreement (I believe it is Sweden).

Recently Gary Bettman expressed doubt about NHL players participating in the Winter Olympics to be held in 2014. Some have suggested that traveling to Russia is really not much different than traveling to Italy for the Winter Olympics. I suspect that Bettman is using the NHL participation in the Russian games as a bargaining chip to try and get the impasse with the Russian ice federation resolved.

Another side issue is that the compensation to play in Russia continues to improve as high oil prices have greatly increased the amount of money flowing into that economy. When you factor in the falling value of the US dollar (which is the currency for all NHL contracts) the money available in the Russian League starts to look more and more attractive for players who are not NHL stars. If there continues to be no transfer agreement and the US dollar remains low we could more NHL depth players head across the Atlantic in the future.