Thursday, August 17, 2006
Updated: October 27, 10:23 AM ET
Malkin comes out of hiding, practices in L.A.
ESPN.com news services
Evgeni Malkin has surfaced.
ESPN The Magazine E.J. Hradek reports the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect turned up in Los Angeles on Thursday, less than a week after Malkin abruptly left his home country of Russia and his Metallurg Magnitogorsk team.
Malkin skated with a group of NHL players, including Rob Blake and Mathieu Schneider, at the Kings' practice facility in El Segundo, Calif.
Malkin was not expected to make a public comment Thursday. His agents, Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry of the Creative Artists Agency, will instead likely release a statement.
"It's been a difficult week," Barry told The Sports Network of Canada. According to TSN, Barry met with Malkin on Saturday at an airport in Helsinki, Finland. Malkin then went into hiding while he awaited clearance for an American visa, which arrived Wednesday.
Malkin filed a letter of resignation with his Russian Super League team Sunday, a procedural move necessary for the star forward to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins and begin his NHL career.
Malkin, who starred for Russia's Olympic team in the Torino Olympics in February and arguably the top player in the world not currently in the NHL, recently agreed to stay with Metallurg for one more season. His previous contract was through 2008.
Malkin's acquaintances have suggested he was under considerable pressure and duress to agree to the deal, and it was reported in Russia the renegotiated contract wasn't completed until a 3 a.m. bargaining session.
The NHL has not publicly stated its support for Malkin and his desire to play in the league, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league believes any player should have the right to choose where he wants to play as long as he is legally free to do so.
"We have been informed by Evgeni Malkin's agents that Evgeni is now in the United States," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said in a statement. "At the appropriate time, we look forward to sitting down with Evgeni and his representatives to discuss what can be a very bright future with the Pittsburgh Penguins."
Malkin isn't the only Russian player invoking the letter of resignation as a way to leave a team and play in the NHL. Draft picks Alexei Mikhnov (Edmonton Oilers) and Andrei Taratukhin (Calgary Flames) also sent such letters to the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team of the Russian Super League this summer in order to join their NHL teams.
Metallurg general director Gennady Velichkin has rebuked Malkin for leaving and is threatening to sue the Penguins if they sign him. His hardline stance is not shared by Russian national team coach Slava Bykov, who said Malkin was welcome to join the national team at any time.
"I think you can't blame him until you know what exactly happened when he was signing the contract," Bykov told Moscow's Sport-Express Daily newspaper. "There is only one thing I can't understand with this story with Malkin. We live in a free and democratic country, and anybody could leave it at any moment."
Malkin must agree to a contract with Pittsburgh before training camp, but the deal will likely be concluded with minimal negotiating. The NHL labor agreement established an entry-level salary of $984,200, and Malkin will sign a contract identical to that signed by Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin was the No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft, and Malkin was No. 2.
Ovechkin's three-year deal included $850,000 in Schedule A bonuses and $2 million in Schedule B bonuses. The bonuses include those for games played, finishing in the top 10 in goals, assists and points and winning a major award such the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Ovechkin won that award last season.