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Posted: Monday August 21, 2006 5:38PM; Updated: Monday August 21, 2006 6:35PM: SI.com

MOSCOW, (Reuters) -- Russia has declared an all-out war on the NHL, accusing the North Americans of stealing its best players.

Russian hockey officials were up an arms after several top players, including teenage prodigy Evgeni Malkin, the Pittsburgh Penguins' No. 1 pick in 2004, walked out on their contracts with Russian clubs to pursue a career in the NHL.

The Malkin case has been front-page news on both sides of the Atlantic since the young Russian secretly left his club Metallurg Magnitogorsk at Helsinki airport earlier this month.

Malkin, considered the best player in the world outside the NHL, vanished for several days before resurfacing in the United States last week and declaring his wish to play for Pittsburgh.

"This is pure sports terrorism," Metallurg general director Gennady Velichkin told Reuters following the sudden disappearance of his best player.

Velichkin said his club had already hired an American lawyer to look after their interests. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and Russian champions AK Bars Kazan said they also planned legal action against NHL clubs.

Lokomotiv are seeking compensation from the Edmonton Oilers and the Phoenix Coyotes after losing their best forwards, Alexei Mikhnov and Andrei Taratukhin, while Kazan also accused Phoenix of poaching their top player, Enver Lisin.

Russian clubs received backing from the country's hockey chief Vladislav Tretyak and Sports Minister Vyacheslav Fetisov.

Disgraceful offer

"We can't just sit around and do nothing while the NHL takes our best players," Tretyak told local media.

But the NHL said it would not negotiate compensation packages with any Russian club after the European nation refused to sign a transfer agreement with the North American league.

Russia remains the only major hockey power not to join the deal, approved by the International Ice Hockey Federation in 2005.

Under the agreement Metallurg would have received a basic $200,000 fee for Malkin. The Russian club reportedly wanted at least 10 times more.

Tretyak said the Malkin case was the main reason behind their decision not to sign the agreement while the Metallurg boss slammed the offer as "disgraceful".

Malkin has faxed a letter to Metallurg, asking them to annul his contract, which he said he had signed under pressure.

Velichkin denying putting any pressure on Malkin.

"He talks about pressure. What pressure?" Velichkin said.

"You can ask militia [Russian police] about pressure. Pressure is when they bang your head against a wall radiator. As far as the letter he faxed to us, it wasn't written by Malkin so I think it's a pure fabrication. I just threw it in the garbage can."

Asked about the sum he was seeking for Malkin, Velichkin said: "Before his disappearance I was asking for $2 million from Pittsburgh but now I want more, a lot more."

Both the Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
 

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its the players choice, sounds sorta communistic.. :rolleyes: they want to control where their players go. so what if they play for the NHL. Buy cable people:p
 

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shanny14 said:
its the players choice, sounds sorta communistic.. :rolleyes: they want to control where their players go. so what if they play for the NHL. Buy cable people:p
Ditto.

Glad to see Malkin got away.

:thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter #5
NHL and Russia angry over player battles

Canadian Press
8/23/2006 5:02:05 PM

(CP) - While Evgeni Malkin's flight to the NHL has incensed Russian hockey officials, some NHL executives are growing hot under the collar at watching their players abandon North America for greener pastures in Russia.

Already the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders have lost three players to Russia this summer. Mark Gandler, the agent who represents those players, says Russia is an attractive option for "young, vibrant talent which is not properly treated (by NHL teams)."

Winger Eugeni Artukhin rejected Tampa's last offer and has signed on for more money in his native Russia. The same goes for Russian defenceman Denis Grebeshkov and Finnish winger Sean Bergenheim of the Islanders.

All three will earn more money this season playing for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

"In Russia the taxes are 13 per cent, so it's relatively speaking tax-free," explained Gandler, whose firm International Sports Advisors has some 25 NHL players, half of them Russian. "They also usually have bonuses on top of everything, a free apartment, a free car, basically perks."

All three are restricted free agents in the NHL, which means the Lightning and Islanders have no legal recourse compared to Metallurg Magnitogorsk, the Russian club threatening to sue the NHL because it says Malkin is under contract with them.

The Vancouver Canucks lost backup goalie Mika Noronen to Russian league club Ak Bars Kazan earlier this month while star winger Nikolai Zherdev has also threatened to stay on in Russia this season if the Columbus Blue Jackets don't pony up.

Zherdev is the only first-line player among them. The others find themselves squeezed in the NHL's salary cap system where most of the money goes to the marquee names.

That Artukhin, Grebeshkov and Bergenheim are Gandler's clients is just a coincidence, the agent said from his New Jersey office. He vehemently denies the rumour that he was getting a cut from Russian league clubs to deliver them NHL players.

"What I have a problem with is people thinking that I would take a bona fide NHL player and place him in Russia and basically hurt him and his career for personal gain," said Gandler. "I don't deserve that after 16 years in the business."

Either way, Lightning GM Jay Feaster didn't hide his frustration in losing Artukhin.

"This is just ridiculous," said Feaster. "This is a player who finally shows that maybe he can play in the league and he was one year of NHL time under his belt and then decides he's going to go play in Russia."

Feaster offered the 23-year-old Artukhin, who had four goals and 13 assists in 72 games last season, a $600,000 US one-year and one-way deal, an upgrade on his qualifying offer which only called for a two-way deal that paid $495,000 in the NHL and $95,000 in the AHL. But Artukhin and Gandler told Feaster they wouldn't accept anything under $750,000.

"We have Ryan Craig sitting there in our locker-room, he signed a $495,000 (two-way contract) and he scored 15 goals for us last year," said Feaster. "So it's a little tough to accept that for some inexplicable reason that Artukin ought to be making $750,000."

Gandler confirmed Feaster's version of the contract talks.

"They've negotiated in good faith and I have no problems with Jay whatsoever," said Gandler. "We have a difference of opinion on the value of the player.

"He didn't expect to play much again, which was also a factor."

Feaster intimated that in fact Artukhin was told he would have a bigger role this season.

"I had (head coach) John Tortorella talk to him about his projected role to help him understand that we're looking out for his development," said Feaster. "And he just goes and screws off to Russia."

Gandler felt the Islanders disrespected Bergenheim in contract talks.

"Just the way he was treated by the team and spoken to . . . and I have to include myself in that. Sean said to me he will never play for $500,000 in the NHL - no matter what. And that's his final decision," said Gandler. He's making pretty good money in Russia, he's on the top line, he's treated well, and he's continuing his development."

Bergenheim, 22, had four goals and five assists in 28 games with the Islanders last season, his second in the NHL.

"We like Sean Bergenheim," said new Isles GM Garth Snow. "We offered him a one-way contract and the opportunity of a regular spot in the National Hockey League. He has played 46 NHL games over two seasons, so we feel our offer was more than fair. If Sean's decision is to play in Russia for what he feels is a better deal, that's his call. He's still a part of our future."

As for Grebeshkov, the 22-year-old wasn't offered a one-way deal.

"Denis did not want to sign a two-way deal," said Gandler. "So the Islanders have lost a first-round pick (18th overall by the Kings in 2002) because for whatever reason they decided they didn't want to pay him one-way money."

Said Snow: "Denis is a good prospect who took what he thought was a better opportunity to play at home for a year. We wish him well and hope to see him back here soon."

What does this all mean in the big picture?

"I think it's something where we're going to have to be careful about drafting players out of there," said Feaster.

Gandler says that's already happening.

"Check out this year's draft, you see any Russians in the first round? They're already scared to draft them because there's no agreement and they're not sure whether they can sign them or not."

Technically, two Russians were taken in the first round: goalie Semen Varlamov by Washington, 23rd overall, and defenceman Ivan Vishnevskiy, 27th overall by Dallas. Still, no Russians were taken in the top 20. In the 2005 entry draft? Not a single Russian in the first round. The first wasn't taken until the 70th selection.

"It is a concern globally," Feaster said when asked about Russian players staying home to play. "As I try to analyse all those situations and certainly our own, the one thing I believe is that there aren't many North American players who are going to consider that to be an attractive option, going to play in Russia. And yet for the Russian player, it often is."
 
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