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An update on the Martin Reway situation with HC Sparta Praha

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Last week the news broke that Sparta Praha had demoted the leading scorer of Extraliga to the development team Benatky nad Jizerou, after contract negotiations broke down. Here is what we know about the situation so far.

HC Sparta Praha

The Czech and Slovak media have sort of brandished Martin Reway as a troubled child, a bohemian player, a rebel without a cause, and so on. Some of my sources in the Czech Republic and Slovakia also state that appreciation for junior players is not that common, and that having a star that sticks out in more ways than on the ice can cause disruption to the system.

Reway is a star, there is no doubt about it. He is the same age as guys like Aleksander Barkov and Nathan MacKinnon, and probably doesn't agree with picking up pucks and carrying bags after practice. My colleagues, and sources from both the Czech Republic and Slovakia explain that top six forward lineups in the Czech league are built on 29 to 30-year-old players. Third-line players tend to be around 28, and the fourth line is where young players generally go, with an average age of 24.

You can look at Lukas Jasek, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, who decided to stay in his home team (HC Oceláři Třinec) and  the result for him is around seven and a half minutes per game. There is quite a different approach to player development than in the NHL and other leagues in Europe. It suggests that young players have to be patient, and can't expect tons of ice time right away.

Other sources points to the fact that young players have to be used to criticism. If older player make some mistakes, it's not such a big deal as when a younger one does. Junior players pay for their mistakes, as they are first to be affected by lineup changes. It's not a crime, but it affects everything, even if this is leading the Czech league in scoring.

What we know
  • During a series against Zurich, Reway provided two assists, but was called out by the coach after the game. The coach held up future first-overall NHL pick Auston Matthews as example for Reway to emulate.
  • The contract between HC Sparta Praha and Reway expires after the 2015-2016 season.
  • Despite being the leading scorer in the Czech league, Reway was receiving limited ice time. Roughly 10 minutes per game at even-strength. Although he did receive on average 3:42 per game on the power play.
  • Sparta Praha disagreed, and felt that Reway was getting the ice time he deserved.
  • Reway then said, "I don't want to play for Sparta anymore." (source)
  • The news was first reported in the Czech paper iDNES.cz (Originally this article, which has since been updated)
  • Sparta released a statement, saying that Martin Reway was assigned to the development squad Benatky nad Jizerou..
  • The agent Michal Sivek was interviewed by the same paper, and shed some light on the situation. He confirmed that there was an offer from another club within the Extraliga. He also said that Sparta still holds Reway's rights, and would therefore need to be compensated. He would not comment if there was a rift between the coach and the player. EDIT (28-Oct-15): EOTP contacted Martin Reway's agent for comment. He wanted to clarify that there was no offer from another club at the present time as was stated above. EOTP would like to apologize for the error in translation and we will be back with more from Mr.Sivek soon.
  • Michal Sivek also said that Martin Reway would play for the national team in the upcoming break for internationals in Europe. (source)
  • There is a concrete offer from another Extraliga club, and it is expected that some KHL clubs are waiting in the shadows as well. (source)
  • Reway did show up at the development squads training.
  • Reway did not play for Sparta this weekend, nor the development team.
What we assume
  • Contract negotiations between Sparta Praha and Reway had begun, according to a tweet sent out by Reway that has since been removed.
  • Sparta Praha does not seem likely to let him go.
  • There was also some confusion regarding a trade, something that rarely happens in Europe, which was tweeted by Adam Kosnac.
  • Contract and trade value

    With regard to the differences of ice hockey contracts and trades between the NHL and Euproean Leagues, KHL excluded, is that the contracts are more similar to soccer contracts.

    There are no real trades in soccer leagues such as la Liga, Premier League, and Bundesliga. Hence, the Adnan Kosnac tweet is probably a form of a translation error, and Reway most likely submitted a transfer request.

    The question most people on the boards seem to be asking is, "why doesn't Sparta grant him the trade, since they'll get something in return?"

    As the contract expires next summer, the compensation package won't be nearly as good, as a team could claim Reway for free at that time. Sparta is one of the top teams, and they aim to win the league this year, so you would not simply give away your best player.

    Sparta essentially gains nothing by giving Reway up now, as he will still most likely leave come June. Therefore it looks like Sparta Praha has leverage in the negotiations at this time, and they are also driving down Reways potential personal value in June by playing him on the development squad. Also, what happens next time some player wants to leave, and just says "I don't want to play here anymore?"

    A possible move to KHL

    Slovan Bratislava holds his rights in the KHL, with undoubtedly a few underperforming teams observing the situation from afar.

    My guess is that SKA St. Petersburg and Bars Kazan would be two such teams, as they are both teams that has started the season slow, and would be looking to make a push for the playoffs. If they were to chase him, Slovan would get a compensation, much like what would happen in an NHL offer sheet situation.

    What is working in Reway's favour is that he took the demotion on the chin, hopefully proving that previous bouts with authority after the World Juniors, and with the national team last season. Sparta said in their statement that he was welcome back, if he was prepared to play and accept his coach's decision.

    The personality

    This isn't the first time Reway is at the centre of a dramatic situation. To be honest, it's not even the second time. The consensus is that Reway is undoubtedly a fantastic talent, and is being compared to Zigmund Palffy by many people. He also comes from a modest background from the North of Slovakia, and it seems like he wants to provide for his family. This is why he wants to be near them, and earn as much money as he can, which it is hard to fault him for.

    He is polarizing, something that was obvious when his former coach of the Slovakian National team Vladimír Vůjtek, and now the coach for Czech Republic, was asked about if he missed the chance of having him play in his team. His answer was as follows; "Should I be honest? No." And with a small smile, he said: "I don't miss him one bit."

    We'll have to wait and see how this all plays out, but I'd wager to guess that the Montreal Canadiens brass is closely monitoring the situation. Benatky nad Jizerou has a game schedule tomorrow, and we will know more about Reway's situation once we get a chance to see their lineup.