The NHL’s transfer agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation expired yesterday, ushering in a new era for the movement of players between Europe and North America.

For over a decade, the transfer deal set a framework for how NHL teams could bring players across the Atlantic, with deadlines for transfers, limits on how many players could leave each season, rules for players returning to their IIHF clubs, and a transfer fee for each player.

NHL clubs spent around $11 million US annually to sign between 50 and 60 young players from IIHF-affiliated European leagues in the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland.

But the system began to crumble when Russia refused to sign a re-worked deal three years ago and fell apart last month when the Czech Republic also balked. They felt the $200,000 transfer fee per player wasn’t enough compensation.

Now it will be open season, with European teams receiving no compensation when a player heads to the NHL.

“We’re obviously going a different direction than we have in the past,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press via e-mail. “But our clubs have been prepared for this eventuality for some time.”

IIHF president Rene Fasel said the NHL plans to honour European contracts and the league expects European teams do the same with NHL deals.

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