Russian League may offer Malkin $15 M

September 15, 2009, 1:21 AM

Sportsnet.ca – Russia’s Continental Hockey League is hoping to make Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin the world’s highest-paid hockey player to the tune of $15 million per season according to a Toronto newspaper.

According to the Toronto Star, several team’s in Russia’s revamped hockey league are prepared to offer Malkin a multi-year deal worth $12.5 million a season. The offer would be equivalent to at least a $15 million per year in the NHL, where players have to pay state (or provincial) and federal taxes.

In comparison, Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is the top-paid player in the NHL at just under $9.6 million a season.

“Hey, we can afford to pay more than the NHL right now,” a high-ranking executive with the Russian league told the Toronto Star this morning. “Our economy is commodities-based so we’re not going through the same problems that you have in America.”

The executive said a $12.5 million offer to Malkin “is not crazy” but conceded, “it’s on the edge of crazy.”

This past season, his second in the NHL, he scored 47 goals and added 59 assists in 82 games with the Penguins and was the runner-up to Ovechkin for the most valuable player trophy. The power forward was also an all-star and was paid a base salary of $984,200, a year after winning the NHL’s rookie of the year award.

Malkin also has an endorsement contract with Canadian hockey company Bauer, which is negotiating a possible sponsorship agreement with the new Russian league, a source said.

If Malkin did return to Russia it would be similar to that of Bobby Hull’s defection from the Chicago Blackhawks in 1972 to the World Hockey Association’s Winnipeg Jets. The Jets agreed to pay Hull $1 million over 10 years.

A Russian league official brushed off suggestions that the NHL would legally contest such contract offers.

“What happened with Malkin when he came to the NHL?” the official said.

After the Penguins drafted Malkin in 2004, he remained in Russia, where his club team argued he had an existing contract. After Malkin left for North America, his team unsuccessfully filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NHL, arguing he had an existing contract in Russia.

The new Russian league is scheduled to start its season Sept. 2.

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