Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Metallurg awaits arbiter's decision on Malkin

Evgeni Malkin being checked by Lokomotiv's Vladimir Antipov

Evgeni Malkin's former Russian team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, is awaiting a Russian Hockey Federation arbitration decision on the status of Malkin's contract with Metallurg-- a ruling that could be announced as early as tomorrow, according to a story that ran on the RIA (Russian News and Information Agency) web site today.

Metallurg GM Gennady Velichkin says in the RIA article that the team has hired attorney Alexander Berkovich with the intent of pursuing further legal action through the courts regarding Malkin, but will first wait for the RHF arbitration committee's decision to be handed down.

Velichkin is anticipating a ruling in favor of Magnitogorsk, recognizing Malkin's contract with Metallurg and thus prohibiting Malkin from suiting up for any other team but Magnitogorsk until the one-year deal has concluded, saying that he will then try to use the ruling as a means of reaching an agreement with Pittsburgh "or the NHL, in the proper order." Velichkin said, "Either the NHL will accept the fact that Evgeni can only play this season for Metallurg, and will return him to Magnitogorsk, or they will begin negotiations about purchasing Malkin's contract from us."

A similar arbitration ruling was made yesterday regarding Alexei Mikhnov and Andrei Taratukhin. The purpose of the rulings seems to be, from the standpoint of the Russian teams, to force the NHL teams to either settle up or face having to expend time and money on legal expenses trying to overturn the Russian arbitration committee's decision.

Vladislav Tretiak

In a seperate RIA story, RHF president Vladislav Tretiak said that Evgeni Malkin can be disqualified from playing in Russia for breaking his contract with Magnitogorsk.

In a press conference, Tretiak said, "There are regulations according to which, for such breaches, a hockey player can be disqualified and lose his right to play in the Russian regular season."

Tretiak was cautious enough to add that such a disqualification would not extend to the national team.

UPDATE 9/7/06 -From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (fast becoming the newspaper of record regarding these things):

A Russian Hockey Federation panel has delayed a decision on whether Evgeni Malkin breached his contract with a team in that country by signing to play for the Penguins, postponing a hearing on Malkin's case until Sept. 15.

Tuesday, however, it ruled that two other players, Alexei Mikhonov and Andrei Taratukhin, violated their contracts with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl by signing with Edmonton and Calgary, and said those two cannot play in the NHL until their Lokomotiv deals expire.

A Russian newspaper, Sport Express, reported that the panel made its judgments against Mikhonov and Taratukhin after applying a provision of the Russian Federal Sports Law rather than Article 80 of the Russian Labor Code to their cases.

Article 80 allows employees to sever ties with an employer by giving at least two weeks' written notice, something Mikhonov, Taratukhin and Malkin did before signing in North America.

It is not clear why the panel declined to pass judgment on the Malkin situation or how much, if any, authority it has to enforce its decisions outside of Russia.

"It's never been able to enforce its rulings in North America before," said J.P. Barry, one of Malkin's agents. He acknowledged, though, that the only precedent of which he is aware was a judgment against Washington's Alexander Ovechkin that did not hold up when challenged in a United States court last year.

Barry also confirmed that Malkin's former team in the Russian Super League, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, had filed paperwork requesting a hearing on his situation late last week, at the same time Yaroslavl did so for Mikhonov and Taratukhin.

"I anticipated they would have a decision on all three [earlier this week]," Barry said. "It's curious that they haven't done anything on Malkin. I guess we'll have to wait for their next step."

While the Russian panel offered no explanation for its delay in the Malkin case, Barry speculated that it deferred a ruling because, "they must have something they want to discuss with respect to what they want to do with Evgeni."