Russian panel delays decision on Malkin

Hearing on contract now set for Sept. 15

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Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette
Evgeni Malkin could still miss next season.
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A Russian 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.

The three-member board, known as the arbitration committee of the Russian Hockey Federation, postponed 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."

Magnitogorsk has long threatened legal action if Malkin signed to play here. While the team seems to have abandoned the idea of trying to force him to play with it this winter, club officials contend they should be compensated financially for surrendering his rights.

Malkin's camp, meanwhile, contends that he signed a revised contract with Magnitogorsk this summer only under duress, and that his desire is to play in the NHL. Malkin, 20, signed an entry-level contract Tuesday with the Penguins.

Repeated attempts to contact Penguins general manager Ray Shero for comment were unsuccessful.

Dave Molinari can be reached at 412-263-1144.


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