Even though the NHL's salary cap is on the ride (nearly $6.5 million this year alone), the new threat is not the inability to sign a player - it's the inability to offer as much as other leagues.
The Russian Leagues, known mainly for the products of players like Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and future Ranger Alexei Cherepanov, do not have a salary cap. Basically, this is like the New York Yankees willing to pay for every big name player on the market. The financial lure may be too much for some players.
Consider the most recent Russian acquisition - Jaromir Jagr. Granted Jagr spent 17 seasons in the NHL, but when the 36-year-old free agent hit the market this offseason, his idea of value and that of certain teams hardly matched up. Jagr left the NHL for Omsk, Russia in a deal that will net him close to $5 million a season. To say Jagr would get that much to remain in the NHL is up for question, especially when you factor in the one-year, $4 million offer that Sergei Federov robbed from the Capitals just last week.
So when July rolled around and rumors did what rumors do, Evgeni Malkin allegedly had an offer coming to him from the Russian leagues. Now I don't know the validity of it, and frankly I hardly found anything on the net that solidified this claim, but it somehow wouldn't surprise me.
The Russian leagues may not have the same worldly appeal as the NHL, but they can certainly take some of the biggest players - or perhaps greediest players? - away from the league.
For some it's like their careers come full circle. Guys like former Penguins first-round pick Alexei Morozov are making way more money in Russia than the NHL would offer. And frankly, they're heroes in their own right in their own town before the eyes of their own countymen. As the international leagues and the olympics have shown us, sometimes that loyalty to a country is enough for any player.
Are the Russians and their unlimited cap space a threat to the NHL and its players? (that sounds so 1950s Cold War-esque)