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Barnaby 05-11-2004 01:36 PM

Agents, and Malkin
Here is a piece of an interesting article I just read on ESPN.

The complaint claims that a Russian representative of The Puck Agency offered Evengy Malkin and his family $50,000 to leave IMG last winter and become a Grossman client. Malkin, a forward with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Super League, accepted the payment and informed IMG of his decision to terminate their relationship. The player since has decided to return to IMG and is now seeking to return the cash.

"This type of thing has been going on for years," said J.P. Barry, managing director of IMG Hockey. "But nobody has been able to prove it. We believe we have the evidence to back up the complaint."

Grossman did not return calls from ESPN.com.

The NHLPA and its executive director Bob Goodenow declined several requests for interviews, however, Ian Penny, associate counsel for the NHLPA, did issue the following statement on Friday:

"From time to time the NHLPA receives information regarding a variety of agent issues and those are dealt with internally. It's our policy not to comment publicly on specific matters, but since an agency has disclosed information publicly regarding alleged agent misconduct, we can confirm that the NHLPA has been contacted in relation to this matter. We take this issue seriously and if probative evidence is found the NHLPA will certainly pursue the matter."

The NHLPA has never decertified an agent for offering inducements to players, and several agents say they can't recall a formal complaint filed by an agency before IMG cried foul against Grossman.

The NHL's Central Scouting ranks Malkin second behind only Alexander Ovechkin among non-North American skaters eligible for next month's draft. NHL scouts suggest that, on occasion this season, Malkin has been as good as or better than the highly touted Ovechkin. They project that Malkin will go to Pittsburgh, which holds the No. 2 overall pick.

Malkin wasn't the only draft-eligible prospect in Russia targeted by Grossman and his agency. Until a few months ago, Mark Gandler had represented Alexander Radulov, who is ranked seventh among non-North American by Central Scouting, and his brother Igor, an emerging talent in the Chicago Blackhawks system. Both have jumped to Grossman.

One agent who recently lost a client to The Puck Agency maintains that his former client was bribed. The agent, who asked that his name be withheld, said that he is "entertaining the idea of joining IMG in the complaint before the NHLPA."

The consensus among many agents is that the NHLPA will give more weight to the complaint than prior griping about the swiping of clients because it's IMG's hockey division doing the complaining.

Said one agent with no history with IMG or Grossman: "IMG is a lot more influential than, say, an individual who has a five or six players on his client list. [IMG] also has a reputation for being above board with its operations in Russia and the rest of Europe. If [the NHLPA] came down hard on Grossman it might not completely clean up the business but it would scare a lot of people who have been buying these kids."

More than a few agents are cheering for IMG in this contest, especially those agents who have watched top young Eastern European prospects bolt their client lists for Grossman's.

Only three years ago Grossman's clients were the story of the NHL entry draft. Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Svitov and Stanislav Chistov were the first, third and fifth overall picks, respectively. Several agents who were rejected by the Russian teens could only grit their teeth and watch them walk up to the stage. Scott Greenspun, a New York-based agent, had represented Kovalchuk until a few months before the draft. Svitov and Chistov had also switched to Grossman -- in fact, several agents at the draft weren't sure whether Grossman was the third or fourth agent who had a commitment from Chistov. Among those left behind by Chistov was Paul Theofanous, an independent agent who brought the player to California as a 14-year-old, enrolled him in school for a season and sought out the best coaching available.

Those agents left standing at the draft's altar didn't file complaints with the NHLPA, in part because they could not produce a paper trail.

"Everyone knows what the going rate is for these kids," said one NHL scouting director with extensive experience in Eastern Europe. "You want a kid, it's going to cost a Jeep. That's their ride of choice."

Not Kovalchuk's, however. Prior to signing his first NHL contract with the Atlanta Thrashers, he bragged in the Russian media about driving his Audi around the streets of Moscow.

In a letter sent to the NHLPA and reprinted in a Russian newspaper in December 2001, Svitov and Chistov said that Grossman paid them to commit to his agency. The players were giving notice to the NHLPA that they intended to fire Grossman as their agent but they apparently had a change of heart. They continue to be represented by Grossman.

Grossman's relationship with the NHLPA has been strained, which might not bode well for him in the dispute.

Edge 05-11-2004 02:18 PM

this has been going on for years, especially in Russia where kids tend not to come from a lot of money and due to a variety of circumstances tend to have interesting heads on their shoulders {one reason i'm not a fan of drafting out of russia, though god knows Stardog will probably pop up now to remind how "insensitive" my remarks are, even though he's never in his life been around european hockey}.

anyways it will be interesting to see what comes of this. This behavior has gotten even worse over the past several years.

Barnaby 05-11-2004 04:09 PM


They'll probably try to cut down on it, but I seriously doubt they will ever stop it.
I just thought this was an interesting article. I bet Malkin wishes he could keep that 50G's.... He may have a nice contract coming, but I doubt he's ever had a fraction of that money in his life.

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