International Hockey ArchivesEvgeni Malkin, the Penguins' first-round pick in the 2004 draft, has said he wants to join the NHL club for the upcoming season.
The latest voice concerning the broken hockey pipeline between Russia and the NHL belongs to Gennady Velichkin, general director of Magnitogorsk Metallurg, and it's not a quiet one.
At the center of the controversy is forward Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins' first-round pick in the 2004 draft who has said he wants to join the NHL club for the upcoming season.
Malkin, perhaps the top prospect overseas, plays for Velichkin's Metallurg and is under contract with that team in the Russian Superleague through 2008.
Malkin remained in Russia for the 2005-06 season because there is no transfer agreement between the NHL and Russia. It lapsed last summer even though other countries associated with International Ice Hockey Federation signed a deal that runs through the 2006-07 season.
According to the Reuters news agency, Velichkin told Russian reporters that he might sue the Penguins to make sure they buy Malkin's contract, which could cost the Penguins millions.
"We're not asking for [the negotiated transfer fee] from the Penguins," Velichkin said. "Such a sum is a handout, and we're not interested in handouts.
"Put simply, they must buy his contract from us."
It's unclear just how much Magnitogorsk would receive if the Russian hockey federation signs the existing transfer agreement before next season. There is a sliding scale dependent on where a player was selected in the NHL draft. Reuters has reported the amount for a first overall pick at $900,000, but others have put it closer to $200,000-$300,000.
Malkin was the second overall pick in 2004 behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin, a Russian player who was able to negotiate his own deal to play in the NHL in 2005-06.
Velichkin said he wants compensation for Malkin, similar to some of the major deals that have been seen in international soccer, including the $25 million that AC Milan paid Dynamo Kiev for player Andriy Schevchenko in 1999.
"Dynamo received millions from Milan for Schevchenko," Velichkin said. "Why can't we get that?
"But I can't name the exact price for Malkin. We must wait for Pittsburgh's offer first."
He can expect to wait a long time. The Penguins have said they are waiting to see if the NHL and Russia sign a transfer agreement. It is highly doubtful the Penguins, who are currently without a general manager, would attempt to strike their own deal with Magnitogorsk -- even if they could afford to.
Malkin recently told the Russian newspaper Sport-Express that he is counting on playing for the Penguins this fall.
"I've already made up my mind for next season -- I'll be leaving for the NHL. I'm 100 percent sure of that," he said.
There had been earlier reports that Malkin had struck his own agreement with Magnitogorsk that would free him from his contract after this season, but that has never been verified, and Velichkin's statements seem to contradict such an idea.
That leaves the transfer agreement.
Optimism over the transfer agreement increased last week when Vladislav Tretiak, a former Soviet goaltender and a Hall of Fame member, was elected president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.
J.P. Barry, one of Malkin's U.S.-based agents, is keyed more on Tretiak's involvement than Velichkin's statements.
"We're going to be speaking to the NHL with regard to new Russian Federation president," Barry said yesterday. "Once we get an update, we can see where it goes."
NHL officials, though, have consistently declined to divulge information about negotiations with Russia regarding a transfer agreement.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.