Monday, July 25, 2005

Malkin to Join Crsoby and the Pens

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Penguins will know long before the start of training camp in September if 2004 first-round draft pick Evgeni Malkin will join an ever-growing lineup of scorers that will soon include Sidney Crosby.
Penguins general manager Craig Patrick has already talked to one of Malkin's agents, Pat Brisson, about signing the 18-year-old center for the 2005-06 season. Brisson also represents Crosby, which could be a plus for the Penguins.
With Malkin's agents also handling the 17-year-old Crosby, the Canadian super prospect who will be drafted No. 1 Saturday by the Penguins, it's likely they will push Malkin to sign with Pittsburgh so the two teens can start playing together and learning each other's games.
If that happens, it's conceivable the Penguins could open the season Oct. 5 with Crosby centering a top line that also includes player-owner Mario Lemieux and Mark Recchi, and Malkin centering their second line. "We'd like to get him over here. ... We expect to have some dialogue over the next few days" with Malkin's agents, Patrick said. "We want to get him here as soon as we can." Malkin, last year's No. 2 pick behind Russian forward Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, is signed to a multi-year contract with his hometown Mettalurg Magnitogorsk of Russian's top pro league.
Malkin was the team's third-leading scorer last year, in a relatively low-scoring league, with 12 goals and 20 assists in 52 games.
"Based on what Malkin did last year, he's definitely ready," for the NHL, Patrick said.
Until now, the labour impasse that shut down the 2004-05 season and the expired transfer agreement between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation has prevented the Penguins from attempting to sign Malkin.
The international agreement sets parameters under which a player's European team is compensated when that player signs with an NHL team. There was speculation Russian teams would not be part of any new deal and would seek higher transfer fees - in Malkin's case, perhaps as much as $2 million.
As reported on Saturday, a new transfer deal has been reached that gives NHL teams until Aug. 15 to sign players for this season, even those currently under contract in Europe.
Thus, the Penguins would have until then to sign Malkin, or he would play at least another season in Russia. The Penguins must sign Malkin by June 1, 2008, or relinquish his NHL rights.
Malkin's Russian contract is worth $1.3 million tax-free, and he could make more than that in Pittsburgh with performance bonuses. Under the new NHL labour agreement, Malkin can make as much as $984,200 in base salary next season, plus a signing bonus of slightly less than $300,000. But he could make several million dollars more in performance bonuses.
More incentive for Malkin: Lemieux has all but said the Penguins will add at least one more high-profile forward during the free agent signing period that begins Sunday.
They currently have seven players signed to contracts worth about $5.5 million. Even after determining how much Lemieux will make, and reaching terms with their restricted free agents - including Ryan Malone, Konstantin Koltsov, Dick Tarnstrom and Brooks Orpik - they figure to have about $12 million to $15 million available to sign players.
With owner-in-waiting William "Boots" Del Biaggio planning to increase the payroll by $10 million or $11 million from the approximately $20 million when they last played, the Penguins figure to be in the mid-range of NHL payrolls. They were at the bottom during the 2003-04 season.

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