Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What's Up With Evgeni Malkin?

The pre-season rookie of the year favorite for the 2006/07 season is probably Evgeni Malkin if he gets to the NHL. He is a Pittsburgh first round draft pick from 2004 who has had some international success. The problem is that there is no player transfer deal between Russia and the NHL. A tentative deal was agreed to in June that needed radification by the individual teams in the Russian league. This radification has not happened yet.

Currently, the NHL has player transfer deals with Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Should a player under contract in any of these countries leagues sign an NHL contract, the NHL team signing him must pay a sum of a few hundred thousand dollars to the league in question (the exact sum depends on the draft position of the player). In principle this is to pay the league for developing the player. Russia has no agreement. This has led to lengthy court disagreements such as with Alexander Semin.

Its unclear exactly what would happen if Malkin joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in the absence of a deal. The possibilities range from a multi-million dollar payment to his Russian team Metallurg Magnitogorsk, to slipping Malkin out of Russia without their approval and Pittsburgh paying the Russians nothing. So in the meantime, Pittsburgh is waiting and hoping the situation clears itself up.

As the deal stands, Metallurg would get $900,000 US for Malkin. They believe he is worth significantly more and they (and some other Russian league teams) won't sign a transfer deal without much higher transfer fees.

The NHL is making threats to Russia. They claim that since the IIHF deal governs how the leagues co-exist, they Russian league players might be barred from playing in IIHF sponsored tournaments like the World Championships (which will be in Russia in 2007). They tried and abandoned this argument regarding the 2006 Olympics . I do not see how it holds any water. Players playing in countries thought too insigificant to be asked to sign an IIHF transfer deal (Switzerland, Italy, France, Kazakhstan, Latvia...) frequently play in IIHF sponsored tournaments without having any deal in place. How could Russia be treated differently?

In the meantime, Malkin waits in Russia and Pittsburgh waits for things to clear up.

Here is a Toronto Star article on the subject.

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