Evgeni a Malkin-tent

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:37 PM ET

Separating fact from fiction and intrigue from reality is nothing but a blur in the case of the disappearing hockey player, Evgeni Malkin.

This much we know: This is one immensely gifted, somewhat confused, irresponsible kid without a genuine sense of commitment but one of personal urgency.

He knows what he wants, he just has an unusual way of showing it.

This is a kid who will shake hands on a deal one day and then question it the next. This is a kid who tells stories, some of them may even be true.

This is a kid who changes agents about as often as he changes channels.

This is a kid who has apparently defected from a country that has open borders, where anyone is free to depart at any time. (When was the last time someone defected from Canada?)

This is a kid in hiding. But hiding where, and from whom, are even better questions.

This much we know: Evgeni Malkin altered his two-year agreement with the Russian team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, and accepted a one-year, $3.6-million offer to play this season in the Russian Super League.

That would pay him at least three times more than he would earn in Pittsburgh.

Some stories say the contract was agreed to at 3 a.m., under duress.

Some insiders view that story as complete crap.

"I can tell you, that's not what happened," one said.

One day after altering his contract and agreeing to stay in Russia, Malkin told his coach, Dave King, he had made a mistake.

"He let the pressure get to him," King told the Fan590 radio yesterday. "My only advice to him was 'It's your career, you have to do what's right for you.'"

This much we know: Malkin does what's right for him but not necessarily what's right.

When he signed the deal he questioned in Russia, he was represented by Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry of International Management Group. When he determined he no longer appreciated that contract or his agents, he switched and signed on with Don Meehan of Newport Sports, who represents Russian superstar, Alexander Ovechkin.

LEFT MEEHAN

Meehan, acting on Malkin's wishes, began the process of getting him out of his Russian contract and into the National Hockey League.

But not long after leaving Brisson and Barry, he left Meehan to return to ... Brisson and Barry. Meehan refused to elaborate on his relationship with Malkin, only to add that he's seeking legal counsel "to protect my time and effort."

Brisson did not return telephone messages left for him yesterday.

Let us recap for a moment.

Malkin wants to sign in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins refuse to comment on his whereabouts, let alone his skate size.

Why is it so sensitive?

Malkin already has signed in Russia, where you can give two week's notice and resign your way out of a contract. He has done that part.

Now comes litigation.

The Russian team, and perhaps the Russian league, will sue Malkin and possibly the NHL and the Penguins.

Meehan likely is to sue Malkin. Malkin may counter-sue Meehan.

The agreement between the NHL and the Russian federation expired and now all bets are off when it comes to player transfers.

And in between all this, Malkin called his parents yesterday to tell them he was safe. He didn't say where he was safe.

His father, for the record, called him "childish."

His mother called him "disgruntled."

He remains in hiding, not in Toronto, as some have rumoured, not with Ovechkin, as some have rumoured, and quite likely somewhere in the United States.

Hiding from whom, though? Once upon a time, the Russian Super League was a haven for money laundering, underworld figures and corruption. But with Viacheslav Fetisov in charge of sport in Russia and Vladislav Tretiak in charge of hockey, many say the chaos and crime of Russian hockey is not so prevalent.

Maybe there still are mob elements to this, but those most familiar with Russian hockey believe that is living in the past.

A number of years back, Valentin Sych, the head of the Russian hockey, was gunned down in a gangland style murder. That kind of thing tends to make people notice, even if was nine years ago.

But this much we know: Soon, Evgeni Malkin, one of the brightest young talents, will sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

That's apparent.

They hope he doesn't disappear.

And then gentleman, start your lawsuits.

IN ROY WE TRUST

There isn't enough to be said about what Roy Halladay means to the Blue Jays. In a season that has been great, terrible, promising and frustrating, Halladay hasn't just been a straight line. He has been the franchise. The most complete starting pitcher in baseball. Worth every penny of his large contract.

How often can we say that of anyone?

OWING NOLAN

You would think Wayne Gretzky would know better. But the Phoenix Coyotes continue to make decisions that baffle. The latest is signing Owen Nolan, whom the Leafs had to pay more than $5 million to go away. In Toronto, Nolan was about as popular with his teammates as dandruff. Can't see that changing in Arizona.

LUMSDEN TIME

Before Clinton Portis went down and Kerry Carter's season ended, Jesse Lumsden was having a decent camp with the Washington Redskins. Now, he's going to get the opportunity of a lifetime as he moves up the depth chart. If the Canadian doesn't make the Redskins, it won't because he didn't get a chance.


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