MOSCOW -- The Evgeni Malkin case was the
main reason behind Russia's decision not to sign a transfer
agreement with the National Hockey League, the country's
hockey chief Vladislav Tretyak said.
Malkin has found himself in the middle of a
tug-of-war between his Russian club Metallurg Magnitogorsk and
the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted him as their No. 1 pick in 2004.
Malkin has stated his desire to join the NHL this season,
saying he wanted to prove himself at a higher level. But last
week the talented center was pressured to re-sign his contract
with Metallurg for another year.
However, Malkin's agent, JP Barry, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Malkin told him he wants to play in the NHL this season.
"His wish is to play in the NHL, and in Pittsburgh," Barry said. "We will continue to talk to him about his future, and we will decide the best course for him at this time."
Last week, Russia refused to sign the transfer agreement
just weeks after ratifying the deal, which was approved by the
International Ice Hockey Federation in 2005.
"Honestly speaking, the Malkin case has become the main
stumbling block in our negotiations with the NHL," Tretyak was
quoted as saying by the Russian media.
Tretyak has pushed hard for his country to join the
agreement but many top Russian clubs wanted to negotiate their
own deals directly with their North American counterparts.
Malkin, who turned 20 last week, has been the most
sought-after player by the NHL this year, but Metallurg had no
intention of releasing their prized asset.
Under the old agreement Magnitogorsk would have received a
basic $200,000 fee for Malkin while his Russian club wanted at
least 10 times more.
"We were categorically against a $200,000 compensation offer
for Malkin," Tretyak said. "We offered what we believed was a
fair price but the NHL refused to accept it."
Metallurg general manager Gennady Velichkin has slammed the
offer as "disgraceful" for Russia.
Pittsburgh drafted Malkin second overall in 2004 behind
fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin, who took the NHL by storm
last season, winning the Calder Trophy as the best rookie.
Malkin has already been compared with Pittsburgh owner, the
great Mario Lemieux for his size, talent and scoring ability.
Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.