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Friday, April 28, 2006

Evgeni Malkin: "It's 100% that I'm leaving"

Evgeni Malkin

Russian star Evgeni Malkin has made his decision to play in the NHL next season, and negotiations to bring the talented young forward to Pittsburgh are already underway, according to this story and interview that appeared in Sport Express earlier today:

"It is now known that the forward for Metallurg Magnitogorsk has officially declared his intention to leave for the NHL and play for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the upcoming season. It is likely that all of this, meaning the developments that will surround his departure, will become the main soap opera during the off season. It is unlikely that Malkin will sign a contract soon, however, as the two sides cannot even begin official talks, because of the absence of an agreement between the NHL and Russia. Furthermore, Malkin is still under contract with Magnitogorsk through 2008, and the management of the Russian club does not intend to allow Malkin to go overseas without any compensation.

"Sport Express has learned that negotiations have begun between the two teams, which was confirmed by the general director of the PHL (Russian Professional Hockey League), Vladimir Shalayev. According to the agreement between the Players' Union and the NHL, Malkin, by being the second player picked, must sign a standard contract for three years, not to exceed $750,000. How much compensation the Russian club wants for Malkin from the Penguins isn't yet clear."

Evegeni, have you already made your decision to play in Pittsburgh next season?

Yes, and I announced this to my teammates on the final day of the season. My teammates have already wished me luck.

I have an enormous desire to play in the NHL. I wanted to leave before this past season; however, after consulting with my agents, my parents, and the management of Magnitogorsk, I decided to stay another year in Russia. I have even more confidence now that I can score in the NHL, and become a star there. I realize, of course, that there will be a language barrier at first, and unfortunately I haven't been able to spend much time with my tutor this season. But there is no other way for me: I am leaving, 100%.

You have an active contract with Metallurg through 2008. How has the team management reacted to your decision?
On the one hand, they have assured me that they do not object to my leaving. But on the other hand, Metallurg wants to get fair compensation from the American team, and right now they are conducting talks directly with Pittsburgh. There is likely to be a serious debate between the two clubs, and, I would say, even between the two leagues. I'm hoping that an agreement between Russia and the NHL will be signed by this summer. To what extent Magnitogorsk would try to hold me to the end of my contract, I don't know.

Do they know of your decision in Pittsburgh?
I spoke with my American agent, Pat Brisson (IMG), and he said that he gave notice of my decision to the owner of the Penguins, Mario Lemieux. But since there is no agreement with the NHL, my agent isn't prepared to begin contract negotiations with Pittsburg. So, I can't say how soon I would be able to leave for camp when it is time to start training with the team.

Are you aware that GM Craig Patrick was recently let go from Pittsburgh?
Yes, I know of that. But it doesn't bother me; I doubt that the new GM will say, "This young Russian isn't important to the team." Especially since, in any event, I am still important to Magnitogorsk.

Lemieux is looking to sell the team. The possibility can't be discounted that Pittsburgh might move to another city next season.
Hockey in America is, first of all, a business. For all I know, any discussions about the sale of Pittsburgh could be no more than rumours. I have heard that the city might be willing to build a new arena, or that the league could help the team financially.

It's been a while since the Penguins were serious contenders, and even adding Crosby and Gonchar to the team this year didn't improve the situation. Hopefully you realize that if you do go to play there, you will be playing on a non-playoff team.
There's nothing terribly wrong about that, as far as I can see. Ovechkin went to play in Washington, where they aren't contending for the Stanley Cup, either.

It's pretty simple: the NHL is the strongest league, and to play in it is the dream of every young hockey player, myself included. Where the team might finish isn't what's important to me now. The main thing for me is, first, to prove that I am capable. Further along, it will become more important.

It was said that you didn't join the NHL this season because there were already two strong rookies, Ovechkin and Crosby, and you were afraid of the competition. This new season, there won't be as many competitors against you for the Calder Trophy, which would make it easier. Is this true?
But, there will be competitors! As one example, I will be up against the American, Phil Kessel, a player that I faced often in the World Junior Championships.

This season, both Ovechkin and Crosby passed the 100-point mark as rookies. Do you think you're capable of eclipsing this mark?
100 points is a big number, and achieving that will be very hard. But, I will try. I hope the new rules the NHL started using this season will be to my advantage, and that scoring goals there will be easier than in the Super League.

There is already a young star in Pittsburgh, the Canadian, Sidney Crosby. You're not concerned that, as a foreigner, this will be used against you?
I hope from the beginning to have an agreement, so that such a turn of events won't happen, and that Crosby and I start out as being treated equally. If I'm playing well, and not worse than Crosby, but he is getting more ice time than I am, I will tear up my contract and return to Russia!

Do you plan on having in your contract a clause covering the possibility of a return to Magnitogorsk, in case you don't make the roster?
Yes, I'd like to avoid being sent down to the farm team. These are all details that will be discussed when I eventually sign the contract.


Anonymous dynamo_booster_club_prez said...

"I hope from the beginning to have an agreement, so that such a turn of events won't happen, and that Crosby and I start out as being treated equally. If I'm playing well, and not worse than Crosby, but he is getting more ice time than I am, I will tear up my contract and return to Russia!"

Now there is commitment for you.

Roo-skys! There is only room for one self-important Russian hockey player in North America. And he is on the Syracuse Crunch.

4/29/06, 1:24 AM

Blogger Brushback said...

When I read that Malkin is expecting the same treatment and ice time as Sidney Crosby, my own thoughts were that it was a pretty bold statement, though very typically Russian.

After all, Malkin is a 19-year-old who was second in goals scored in the Russian Super League this season. I would expect him to carry some belief in his abilities.

4/29/06, 12:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a mistranslation here and it's an important one. Instead of "To what extent Magnitogorsk would try to hold me to the end of my contract, I don't know" it should read "As far as I know, no one intends to force me to play for Magnitogorsk until the end of the contract." Malkin seems pretty sure that he'll be able to get his wish and play for in the NHL next year.

5/1/06, 3:34 PM

Blogger Brushback said...


This story (which I found through Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed) says that Metallurg Magnitogorsk is asking for the Penguins to buy the entirety of Malkin's contract from them (in effect, millions) as compensation:

Magnitogorsk general director Gennady Velichkin threatened to go to court if Pittsburgh does not buy out Malkin's contract.

"We're not asking for [$900,000] compensation from Penguins. Such a sum is a handout and we're not interested in handouts," Velichkin told the Russian media.

"Put simply, they must buy his contract from us."

5/1/06, 7:44 PM

Blogger Brushback said...

Oh, and thanks to the person (from Stanford, no less) who corrected a flaw in my translation.

I think I got the words mostly right ("I don't know to what extent they'd try to hold me" vs. "As far as I know, no one intends to force me"), but I seemed to have screwed up the nuances of the grammar.

5/1/06, 8:49 PM


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