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Where are the NHL players?

Half of them are in Europe, according to this story in the New York Times:

According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, 276 N.H.L. players have signed with European teams. That number would stock almost half the prestigious North American circuit, where 30 teams dress 20 players for every game.

The migration to Europe could be a factor in the negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement and it illustrates the changing economic dynamics of an increasingly global sport.

But the long-term ramifications are unclear, particularly in Russia, where talented players are working for surprisingly high salaries in a nation where capitalism is new and evolving. Could hockey be headed for a new world order?

The NHL, noting that European wages are about one fifth of what they were paying, dismisses the threat:

The N.H.L. said it was not greatly concerned that European teams were providing alternatives. Bill Daly, the executive vice president and chief legal officer for the league, said "the league and all the clubs understood it was likely to happen" and "I don't think it has any dynamic" in the struggle over a new collective bargaining agreement.

"The players are playing for far less," Daly said. "The N.H.L. is and will remain the premier league."

Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello said the jobs in Europe had no impact on the lockout despite the players' apparent leverage.

"It all depends on what you call leverage," Lamoriello said. "There is only one N.H.L. There's lots of players still not working."

Meanwhile, at least one player has taken a liking to his new digs:

In the Czech league, players like Patrik Elias of the Devils have been warmly received by their home nation, and he shares the enthusiasm. "The feeling is electrifying, sometimes even better than in the N.H.L.," Elias said. "The quality of play is very high. I think I underestimated it a little bit in the beginning."

Thanks to the competition in Europe, the bargaining game between the NHL and the players is brinkmanship of the highest order. Is Daly in denial?