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Old 08-16-2006, 06:14 AM   #25
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Default Re: Penguins pick Malkin skates out on his Russian club

Location of Penguins prospect Malkin is a big secret
Iron curtain of secrecy, new twist in plot worthy of Tolstoy

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

By Robert Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The information legs of the Malkin Mystery, a non-fiction Russian novel set not in the fierce winter but the stupor of August, disappeared into minutia and speculation yesterday. The only version that counts now is buried in secrecy with the secret inner circle -- the capitalist agents and the prized talent.

Not exactly War And Peace or War? What Is It Good For? or even a decent Rocky and Bullwinkle series -- but the age of instant information demands instant gratification, and nobody has heard from the inner circle, which all of a sudden quit answering their cell phones and haven't bothered to update. Oh, and there is the involvement of money, the root of all evil even in the days of ethics. Add the threats of using the all-American outlet of legal action vowed by an aggrieved hockey concern -- Metallurg Magnitogorsk translates into Steelers -- which feels like it should get more money. The Cold War officially is over. Russians demand their share of the fruits of free-market freedoms. Truth was the first casualty and the last casualty.

So the thin thread of information that began to explode Saturday, gleaned from phone interviews with people with knowledge and web sites carrying snippets of detail, demands a fitting climax. This is the Information Age, where the lack of reliable facts pains liked a sprained ankle on a beach vacation. This much is known:

He is safe with his agents, completely secluded behind a wall of silence. There's a two-week timetable that will feel like the eternity of the Russian winter as it plays out, exhausting those who endure it because people want to know. Except it's August.

He had a Canadian visa in his passport before he left for training camp, and he's most likely squirreled away in Toronto where his agents, despite reports from the Calgary office about a vacation, can only let him skate in secret for so long before words leaks out.

From the Penguins' point of view -- and they could teach the State Department tips on avoiding involvement in a slippery situation by the way they've washed their hands of it -- Malkin provides a topnotch center behind Sidney Crosby. He almost surely will make them a better team, and his presence might give them an outside shot at a playoff spot.

This complex plot is set against a backdrop of a franchise for sale and in need of resolution to an arena issue. But no Russian team that lost a player through defection or contractual maneuvering has won court attempts to get the players back, either.

Where's Anton Chekhov, Woodward and Bernstein when you need them?
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