Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Malkin: What Happens Next?

It's been more than two days since Evgeni Malkin virtually disappeared from a Helsinki airport, and there has yet to be any official word on where he is, other than wild conjecture (he's still in Finland, he's stashed in Toronto). The Pittsburgh papers has been treading very lightly with this story, with the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review waiting out the weekend before even passing along a wire report, and the Pittsburgh Penguins team has likewise refused to comment.

Slava Malamud of Sport Express has been getting some Stateside ink today with his theory, saying, "I think he's in the process of getting an America visa, or he's already here (in the U.S.)," while adding, "He could be the last Russian defector."

Ingmar, to his ever-lovin' credit, thinks the "defector" talk is nonsense:

"Saying that Malkin has 'defected' from Russia is like saying that Chris Pronger 'defected' from Edmonton, taking with him his passport and personal belongings and heading to Mexico. Last I checked, Russia was still called Russia, and not the CCCP. Players do not defect from Russia anymore. There's no hiding in the back of lorries at borderstations, or running through rainsoaked forests with KGB agents in trenchcoats chasing you. Today you're free to travel the world on shitty airlines with shitty food and shitty services just like the rest of us."

Russian Hockey Digest thinks there could be a whopper of a battle ahead, and also thinks that Metallurg has the resources to make it a fair fight:

Evgeni Malkin disappeared... his North American agents say they believe he is safe, which is good. The bad news is that there appears no easy road for Malkin ahead as he became an object of struggle of two powers.

There is the NHL on one side, a business organization that tries to get the best product it can for the least possible price, and sell it for much more. Then there is Metallurg Magnitogorsk , a hockey club from Urals in Russia, the GM of which took a burden to have a precedent of receiving a market value for a player's transfer from Europe to the NHL. Mr. Velichkin has become somewhat a local leader of all GM's of Russian clubs, and there is one big reason for that; (owner) Viktor Rashnikov backs him up. According to Forbes magazine, Viktor Rashnikov has a net worth of $3.6 billion. Rashnikov is also a big hockey fan, and Metallurg's success on the Russian hockey scene is not without his help.

So imagine this: Malkin in the same room with Mr. Rashnikov, a person who could buy a dozen NHL clubs, if not the whole NHL himself. Evgeni just could not say no to his $3.6 million offer simply out of respect, but later he must have realized that he still wants to play in the NHL.

One thing is for sure-- Metallurg will not back out of it, as Mr. Velichkin has an agenda to establish: a precedent of receiving a market value sum for a Russian player.

Sergei Isakov, Malkin's Russian agent until about a week ago, thinks that IMG's Gennadi Ushakov, Malkin's current agent, knows where he is. In fact, Isakov says that Malkin personally told Ushakov that he planned to flee. In an interview with Soviet Sport that Russian Prospects translated, Ushakov says this is nonsense:

I did not know that Malkin would disappear in Finland, and we were not preparing for this act. Why do it? Why first sign a contract with Metallurg and then a week later break it?

If Malkin left for Pittsburgh, I would not get a dime. This is because I do not have any percentage interest from the agreement, and am only earning a wage from the agency. Everyone knows this. That is why I was interested that Malkin would continue his career with Metallurg.

Do you have an idea of where Malkin is right now?

When was the last time you saw him?
Friday evening – Metallurg was flying out to Finland on Saturday morning. After the game against the Soviet Wings, we dined at a Moscow restaurant. We celebrated the restaurant's eighth anniversary. There were even songs played in Evgeni's honor....everything was very nice.

Did Evgeny tell you about his wish to flee?
We didn't even discuss this subject. Additionally, if a person wants to flee, he is not going to divulge his plans.

Have you been in touch with Gennady Velichkin since Malkin's disappearance?
Many times. Just this Saturday we spoke five or six times on the phone. I think that Velichkin understands that I had nothing to do with this.

Ushakov also said that, were Metallurg to bring their case to trial, his agency (IMG) would likely have to stand on the side of the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins on behalf of Malkin.

It has also been said that, in the United States, any contract that can be proven to have been signed under duress (as Malkin's one-year deal with Metallurg might've been) would be considered invalid.

Vyacheslav Bykov

In an interview with Sport Express, Vyacheslav Bykov, the newly-appointed head coach of the Russian National Team, says that Malkin would still be welcome to play for Team Russia (translation by Sport Express):

"There is no official version from Metallurg Magnitogorsk yet. But, if Malkin’s departure is a fact, it means the player had a reason for that. I think you can’t blame him until you know what exactly happened when he was signing the contract. Maybe he changed his mind and asked the club to let him go, or maybe now he is having his rest, doing his fishing somewhere. Malkin has to explain everything himself. We have to listen what the player says. I think he’ll speak soon.

"I don’t want to criticize anybody-– the same happened to Mogilny and (Sergei) Fedorov. Both were made villains first, and later became heroes.

"There is only one thing I can’t understand in all this story with Malkin: we live in a free and democratic country and anybody could leave it at any moment.

"If he says he doesn’t want to play for his country, then he’ll not be invited. But if he has the problems only with his club, he’ll play for the national team. The clubs follow their own policy, but the results of the national team are also important.

"Anyway, from the sporting point of view he had a great season in Russia, and had he moved to the NHL nobody would blame him."

UPDATE 8/15/06 9:49am - Back in action, James Mirtle chimes in with some interesting thoughts.


Anonymous p. mccartney said...

Been away so long I hardly knew the place, gee it's good to be back home.
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case, honey disconnect the phone.
I'm back in the USSR You don't know how lucky you are boy.
Back in the US, back in the US, back in the USSR

8/15/06, 9:11 AM

Blogger Brushback said...

No "Get Back", or "Ticket To Ride"?

8/16/06, 9:02 PM


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