Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Friday, July 28, 2006

NHL deadline may mean Malkin stays in Russia

Everybody else can just hang up right now because I'm not interested
Evgeni Malkin

The IIHF said earlier this week that they'd give Russia until August 15th to sign the NHL player transfer agreement. But now, the NHL is saying they want it signed sooner, possibly as early as Monday.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, July 28:

Getting Evgeni Malkin to North America and with the Penguins this year may require more creativity than originally planned, if the Russian Ice Hockey Federation doesn't sign a transfer deal by a Monday deadline set by the NHL.

"We have informed the International Ice Hockey Federation that, to the extent we do not have an agreement signed by the Russian national association on the terms previously offered and communicated to them by (Monday), we will proceed without a deal for the coming year," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday.

But the Russian federation can't sign the deal without the approval of its member clubs, and RHF president Vladislav Tretiak has faced an enormous amount of pressure from a handful of teams, including Malkin's, not to sign.

Malkin, who was his team's leading scorer and most valuable player last year, doesn't have an "out clause" that would free him of his contractual obligations without a transfer agreement.

A story by the Reuters news agency in early May quoted Metallurg general manager Gennady Velichkin as saying he might sue the Penguins, forcing them to buy out Malkin's contract for what would likely be millions of dollars.

That isn't going to happen, primarily because it's believed the NHL would never allow it.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that Malkin won't be able to join the Penguins as anticipated.

"Whether there are other ways of getting him out or not is open to interpretation and something that we have been investigating the last little while," said Craig Oster of Newport Sports Management, Malkin's agency. "Our hope remains that Russia does come to a deal, because that makes it better for everybody."

Oster declined to discuss what those options might be, stating that the agency's position, for now, is to wait and see what the Russians decide.

"Everybody would like to see this unfold the right way," Oster said.

But Oster and Daly confirmed there's still a possibility Malkin could legally exit his contact, even if the Russians don't enter the agreement. One option may be a rule under Russian labor law that allows an employee to quit a job after giving two weeks written notice, whether he is under contract or not.

The Penguins and general manager Ray Shero declined to discuss the situation yesterday, but Shero said earlier this week that he hasn't looked at acquiring a center this summer because he's counting on having Malkin.

"We're not the only NHL team in this situation," Shero said. "Other teams have Russian players they drafted, and they want to sign them and get them over here. So, we have to be patient. I think it'll be worth the wait, though."