If the new Russian professional hockey league has its way, the National Hockey League career of Hart Trophy candidate Evgeni Malkin will be pretty short.
According to a report in the Toronto Star, the Russian teams are prepared to offer the Russian-born Malkin a contract that would make him the highest-paid hockey player in the world. The multi-year contract would be worth at least $12.5 million tax free per season, or the equivalent of $15 million per year in the NHL.
"Hey, we can afford to pay more than the NHL right now," a high-ranking executive with the Russian league, called the Continental League, told the Star. "Our economy is commodities-based so we're not going through the same problems that you have in America."
However, Malkin's agent J.P. Barry told the Globe and Mail Friday that he has not received any direct offers from Russia and that Malkin is not interested in returning home.
"He's been focused, since Day 1, on doing an extension with the Penguins," said Barry. "We've had discussions with them, since the end of the playoffs, on a framework and expect to have something done with the team early in July."
The Continental League executive confirmed to the Star that some teams have already offered contract to some players that are already under contract to NHL clubs.
According to the executive, the league is not worried about the NHL legally contesting any contract offers
"What happened with Malkin when he came to the NHL?" the official said.
Malkin was drafted by the Penguins in 2004, but remained in Russia because his club team argued he already had an existing contract. When Malkin eventually joined the Penguins, his club team unsuccessfully filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NHL, again insisting he already had a contract in Russia.
However, International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel was quick to respond that any tampering with a player currently under contract could be met with consequences.
"Although there will be no imminent Player Transfer Agreement between the IIHF and the NHL, all involved parties are in principal agreement to honour each other's contracts," says Fasel. "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."
Malkin is eligible to sign an extension with the Penguins as of July 1st. However, should the two parties not agree to terms, Malkin would become a restricted free agent following next season.