[Whether or not it turns out to be true, the prospect of Sergei Fedorov returning to Russia has caused quite a stir on both sides of the Atlantic. As excited as they are about it, however, even some Russians fans may be wondering why, exactly, he would do such a thing. In today's issue of Sport Express online, columnist Igor Larin lists his reasons behind Fedorov's return.]
Little has changed in the last few hours in 39-year-old Sergei Fedorov's Magnitogorsk affair. I can only add the following details to the information which appeared in today's print issue of Sport-Express: in the near future (either the end of this week or beginning of next) there will probably be a meeting in Moscow between the hockey player and Gennadi Velichkin, General Manager of Magnitogorsk Metallurg. Most likely a two-year contract, the details of which have already been discussed, will be signed.
The main question is: why is Fedorov, who unexpectedly left his spot on the USSR National Team in 1991, returning to Russia? Especially considering that he's an NHL free agent and several overseas teams are seriously interested in his services, including his most recent team, Washington?
According to our information, there were several reasons behind his decision to choose Russia. SE has already reported on the first and main reason-Sergei always wanted to finish his career on the same team and, if possible, on the same line with his younger brother Fedor. It has been painful for many in the family to know that the 27 year old forward, with all the attributes he possesses - size, speed, and shooting ability, has not yet been able to fully realize his apparent potential. With his older brother at his side there is no doubt that this realization would be guaranteed. Especially working with coach Valery Belousov, who is probably the best coach at adapting NHL stars to Russia.
The second reason is financial. The salary cap in the NHL will be lowered next year and that very same Washington team, having spent almost all their resources on contracts for Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, and a few other players, will not be able to offer Fedorov even the same four million dollar contract from his most recent season. The demand for Sergei on the free agent market would no doubt be high, but he doesn't have any desire to trade Washington for another Columbus, where Fedorov spent two stifling years. In addition, an exacerbating factor might be the double standard which exists in the NHL, where a contemporary like Sundin, who has never won anything in the league, can get a contract almost twice as massive as Fedorov's.
The third reason you could call career. Or, more precisely, careerist. Sergei understands that he only has a few more years to play at the highest level. He is well settled in Detroit, where he has his own circle of acquaintances, but it is unlikely he would find any interesting work in that or any other city in North America. In this sense Russia, even though it is unfamiliar to him, is an unplowed field. You have to think that the Fedorov family, with the charismatic Fedorov-senior at the head, understands this very well and keeps that in mind.
On the whole, the return of Fedorov is a strong move not only for Magnitogorsk, but for the entire KHL. The three-time champion of the USSR, Worlds and NHL, who shot the game-winning goal a few weeks ago in game seven of the Washington-Rangers series, is once again one of the main figures on the world hockey arena. The duet of Jagr and Fedorov is the best advertisement for the new league, and you can be sure that these two keys can open the doors to not only the European market, but also to North America.