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The NHL on thin ice

From an AP wire report:

European hockey has taken on an NHL look. With an NHL lockout in place, more than 150 players have signed to play in European leagues, including Markus Naslund with Modo (Sweden), Jaromir Jagr with Kladmo (Czech Republic) and Ilya Kovalchuk with AK Bars Kazan (Russia).

Most of the players have lockout clauses that allow them to return to the NHL if and when the labor impasse ends. For now, European teams are taking advantage.

Besides Naslund of the Vancouver Canucks, Modo also signed his teammates Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Niklas Sundstrom (Montreal), Pierre Hedin (Toronto) and Peter Forsberg (Colorado).

Forsberg has indicated he will play the entire season with Modo.

Only 17 Canadian players are headed to Europe, with many others preferring to compete in a four-on-four exhibition series in Ontario and Quebec.

Salary caps are effective at holding down wages when a league has monopsony power. The NHL clearly has market power over labor, for now. But if hockey ever becomes a viable product in Europe, paying sub-market wages would put the NHL in MLS mode, with an inferior product in an international marketplace. The best players would sign with leagues that paid the best wages. Think Brazilian talent, playing for European soccer clubs - or the best North American talent, for that matter. That's not an immediate concern for the NHL, but it could become a reality in the long run.

The story linked above indicates the following: 47 NHL players have signed with the Czech league, 33 are headed to Russia, and 30 to Sweden. Imagine what could happen if a continental-wide European League were developed. If last week's Ryder Cup is any guide, the Euros might just kick ass on the NHL. Hmm, come to think of it, our side sure could have used Mike Weir last week.....