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Old 06-09-2006, 11:15 PM   #1
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Default Malkin to Join the Penguins Soon

Malkin is coming to Penguins soon
Russians to join rest of world on transfers
Saturday, June 10, 2006

By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



Nearly two years have passed since the Penguins drafted Russian center Evgeni Malkin.

They should find out soon if he was worth the wait.

The Russian hockey federation, which declined to participate in the transfer agreement worked out by the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation last summer, plans to reverse course after a meeting yesterday between new federation head Vladislav Tretiak and management of teams from the Russian Super League.

Tretiak has been an unabashed proponent of the transfer agreement; many Super League club owners staunchly opposed it.

The transfer agreement establishes the framework under which players under contract to European teams can move to the NHL. It features a $200,000 fee for any European player who goes to the NHL, with that money coming from a pool to which all NHL teams contribute each year.

While the NHL appears to be aware of the Super League clubs' about-face, it has not received formal notification of it.

An official announcement of Russia's change of heart is expected next week, with the relevant paperwork likely to be signed Friday.

Tretiak, who recently assumed leadership of the Russian federation, lobbied vigorously for acceptance of the transfer agreement and met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman earlier this week.

Bettman was adamant that unless Russia signed off on the transfer agreement, Russian players from the NHL would not be allowed to participate in the 2007 world championships, which will be held in Moscow.

Malkin, 19, was the second player selected in the 2004 entry draft. He is under contract to his hometown team in the Super League, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, through the 2007-08 season, but has repeatedly expressed his desire to play in North America this fall, something that will be possible now that the Russians have agreed to participate in the transfer agreement.

The Penguins still will have to work out a contract with him, but that shouldn't take much effort on either side.

The NHL's collective bargaining agreement compels Malkin to sign a three-year entry level deal, and sets his maximum salary at $984,200. He also is entitled to a signing bonus of up to 10 percent of his salary and some other bonuses, most based on performance.

Because he is widely regarded as the world's best player not currently in the NHL, Malkin is a virtual lock to draw the maximum salary allowed by the CBA. He had 21 goals and 26 assists in 46 games with Magnitogorsk during the 2005-06 regular season and performed well at the world junior championships, Olympics and world championships.

He is 6 feet 3, 186 pounds, and has a physical game that should ease his transition to the smaller ice surfaces and more rugged play found in North America. Indeed, Malkin's most difficult transition likely will come off the ice, because he speaks little, if any, English.

Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who played with Malkin in Magnitogorsk during the NHL lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, has invited Malkin to live with his family here while he gets acclimated to North America.

Malkin was Magnitogorsk's dominant player, and the poster boy for Super League teams' contention that they should be allowed to negotiate individual fees for players NHL teams wanted to add to their roster.

Ironically enough, that position was undermined by Russian labor law, which allows any person to quit a job after giving two weeks' notice, regardless of any contract that might be in place.
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