NHL will have a say on where Red Wings' Filip Zadina can play

By Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Filip Zadina

Detroit – Boy, that Filip Zadina fellow.

He turns up for the Red Wings, a surprise in the draft, after leading rookies in goals, assists and points in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), flashing talent all over the highlight videos.

He looks good in development camp, sealing the performance with the Howe-Lindsay scrimmage winner in overtime.

And, now, his continuing presence is shrouded in mystery.

Where can Zadina play in 2018-19?

We will know if a few weeks, maybe.

A bunch of lawyers are working on it.

At issue: Is Zadina a European player, or is he a Canadian major junior player?

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The key, GM Ken Holland told The Detroit News on Friday, is the agreement that got Zadina from playing in the Czech Republic in 2016-17, to the roster of the Halifax Mooseheads, in Nova Scotia, in 2017-18.

Different NHL eligibility applies to European players and players in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), a major junior association for 16- to 20-year-olds.

And, whether Zadina is a European player on loan to the CHL (the umbrella organization to which the QMJHL, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League belong), or officially a CHL player will determine his destination, should the Wings not retain him on the NHL roster after training camp.

If he is a European player, on loan, Zadina could then go to Grand Rapids.

If he is a CHL player, he must return to Halifax, if the Wings do not retain him.

The key is in the details of whatever the Halifax Mooseheads hammered out with HC Dynamo Pardubice, when Zadina decided to play in the QMJHL last season.

If Zadina is not playing in Detroit, in October, the Red Wings clearly would prefer him in Grand Rapids, rather than Halifax.

The Mooseheads, a venerable organization, see Zadina as the latest in a line of players who put fans in the seats, that since 2013 has included first-round draft picks Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, Nikolaj Ehlers, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.

Cam Russell, the former defenseman for the Blackhawks and Avalanche, is the general manager for Halifax, which is owned mostly by Bobby Smith, who played forward for 15 NHL seasons, including a Stanley Cup in Montreal in 1986.

The Mooseheads brass say they believe Zadina is officially a CHL player.

“Ultimately, it has to be determined by the National Hockey League,” Holland said.

“So, we’re waiting for them, once they gather all the information and make an assessment of what our options are.”

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The situation arises from the determination of the CHL to keep star players, instead of having them turn pro and play in the American Hockey League or other minor league, and getting the NHL to agree to its terms.

“The rules are different for junior players than they are for Europeans,” Holland said.

“If he is classified as a junior player, he falls under the Canadian League-NHL agreement. If he is classified as a European player, then he falls under the rules for Europe and the NHL.”

The agreement that brought Zadina to Canada for last season and any other pertinent documents are in the hands of the NHL, or will be.

It will likely take a few weeks to make any determination, Holland said.

In the meantime, it hardly matters.

Regardless of the machinations between the CHL and NHL, the Red Wings must endeavor to sign Zadina. That work is underway.

Their sixth overall pick in 2018 would then be in camp, after working out this summer.

And, the Red Wings need not submit their roster until they take a good long look at Zadina, Michael Rasmussen, their ninth overall pick from 2017, in training camp and make decisions on who will be in the lineup, at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 4, against the Blue Jackets, opening night, at Little Caesars Arena.

Long before that point, it should be clear whether the NHL believes Zadina is currently a European player, or the property of the CHL.

And, then, the Red Wings will decided where Zadina plays, based on his eligibility.