Malkin gives two weeks' notice to Russian team

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin has filed a letter of resignation with his Russian Super League team, a procedural move necessary for the star forward to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins and begin his NHL career.

Malkin remained hidden Wednesday, four days after abruptly leaving the Metallurg Magnitogorsk team on Saturday after it arrived for training camp in Helsinki, Finland. However, ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek reported Thursday that Malkin was in Los Angeles, skating with other NHL players at the Kings' practice facility.

The 20-year-old Malkin, arguably the top player in the world not currently in the NHL, is believed to have flown to Canada and remained there since, with no indication he has arrived in Pittsburgh for the start of the Penguins' training camp in three weeks.

Metallurg coach Dave King, the former Columbus Blue Jackets coach, told Toronto radio station CJCL the team had received a fax from Malkin resigning from the team. Russian law permits an employee -- even an athlete under contract -- to leave his job by giving two weeks' written notice.

Described by Metallurg's general director as a "Russian treasure," Malkin has stayed out of sight since leaving the team. But his North American agents, J.P. Barry and Pat Brisson of CAA Sports, said he was safe, though they would not say where he is.

"J.P. and I have been in constant touch with Evgeni, as we would do with any player, but especially with Evgeni," Brisson told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

He would not speculate when Malkin might emerge.

Malkin, who starred for Russia's Olympic team in the Torino Olympics in February, 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.

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 ordert 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 Hart Trophy for rookie of the year. Ovechkin won that award last season.