Monday, August 14, 2006

Steaming Mad Russians

Evgeni Malkin’s disappearance maybe a great thing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it shows that the strain between Russian elite teams and the NHL is on fragile ground. It may even make acquiring players from Russia near impossible.

I am not saying that Malkin should spend the season in Russia and not play for Pittsburgh. By all means, the Penguins did the only thing they could do. However, this sudden sneak in the night may make it harder for other teams to get their drafts to the western hemisphere.

It reminds me of the old Soviet Union keeping a keen eye on their players. Many will remember Sergei Federov’s dramatic rescue from the Communist team. He snuck out of a L.A. Hotel into a limo and whisked to Detroit. Malkin’s retreat is roughly the same.

So is that how to get talent out of Russia, sneaking them out of country just to get them into the states? For some teams, that won’t be an option. The Capitals have had a hard enough time to get Alexander Semin overseas.

Teams may think twice before drafting Russian players. Getting those players out of the country and into their rinks will prove a challenge that may put the courts in overtime, and could cost teams millions if they aren’t careful.

So it might be worth it to pull Malkin out, but it may mean consequences for others. Teams with Russian players may be treading thin ice.

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