For those familiar with my writing, I usually write on the College Football circuit. However, I am also a hockey fan and that's pretty rare in the United States. Tonight is the NHL Draft in Ottawa and four days later Free Agency begins, so it is an exciting and nail biting time for many teams in the National Hockey League.
The defending Eastern Conference Champions, Pittsburgh Penguins, are a team that as of this moment have 9 players signed. This next week is pretty important to them. There have been many rumors speculating that the Penguins are going to trade superstar Evgeni Malkin.
One report came out the other day stating that the Pens were talking to the Los Angeles Kings and in return for Malkin, they would get the Kings' number two overall pick and possible center Mike Cammalleri. Penguins fans were outraged saying: "Why would the Pens want to do this, Malkin still has another year of his entry level contract which only counts for approximately $900,000 against the cap.”
The Penguins radio network, 105.9 FM (The X) debunked the rumor saying that it was all blogger talk. Then today TSN.ca comes out with a story that says Russian Superleague teams are prepared to offer Malkin a contract that would make him the highest paid hockey player in the world.
A multi-year contract that would be worth at least $12.5 million tax-free per season, or the equivalent of $15 million per year in the NHL. In case you are new to all of this, there is no transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russian Superleague, but each league has said they will honor the other's contracts and won't poach players.
That prompted a quick response from the International Ice Hockey Federation:
"Although there will be no imminent Player Transfer Agreement between the IIHF and the NHL, all involved parties are in principal agreement to honor each other's contracts," Fasel said. "The NHL has informed the IIHF that this will be the policy of the league during the period without a PTA, and conversely, the IIHF has obligated its member national federations and leagues to do the same in its relations with the NHL.
"We would view any signing, from either side, of a player under a valid contract, who does not have any legally valid out-clause, to be a clear violation of the mutual understanding and existing principle. It would potentially be punishable with suspended national team eligibility and suspension from all competition or activity organized by the IIHF or any IIHF member national association.
This would include events like the Olympic Winter Games, the IIHF World Championship or international club competitions like the Champions Hockey League.
Given this, we are confident that the (Star) report is not substantiated."
So playing a little devils advocate here and assuming that the Russian Super League and the NHL will play nice. Also remembering that Malkin did defect before from the Russian Super League to come to the NHL with a year remaining on his contract in Magnitogorsk.
The Penguins are allowed to start to negotiate with Malkin come July 1st to extend his contract which runs out after the 2008-09 season. So, if they are allow to negotiate with him, what is stopping a Russian Super League team from floating him a huge offer? He could still honor his agreement with the Penguins and play out the 2008-09 season in Pittsburgh, and then jump ship back to Russia.
Taking this a step even further, what if the Penguins are aware of all of this and that is why his name is being floated around in so many trade talks. That TSN report could damage what the Penguins could get in return for Malkin. If other teams get wind of the possibility of Malkin going back to Russia after this season, the Pens could be stuck getting little or nothing for him in return.
Again, this is all speculation and piecing together parts on my end. It allows for good debate on both sides of the argument. That being said I fully expect Malkin to sign an extension with the Penguins, which will give GM Ray Shero another headache when he tries to fit all these high priced players under the salary cap.