Share This Page

Gonchar: Malkin staying in Russia

Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar expected to be Evgeni Malkin's teammate, landlord and unofficial guide to life in North America and the NHL this year.

But Gonchar doesn't believe that's going to happen anymore based on a phone call he received from Malkin a couple of days ago.

"He told me he's staying another year," Gonchar said by phone from his native Russia on Tuesday. "He said he has a reason to stay over. I don't know the reason, but he's staying now."

It's a big change from mid-July, when Gonchar said that, "One way or another (Malkin's) going to leave and play (in the NHL). That's what I understand." Gonchar had gone so far as to arrange for Malkin, 20, to fly from Russia to Pittsburgh with him and live with his family during the season.

But if Gonchar had any more details about Malkin's sudden reversal, he wasn't sharing.

"It's hard for me to make any comments," said Gonchar, who said their conversation was not in person but over the phone and that they "didn't talk much."

The Penguins said yesterday that they still had not received official word that Malkin was staying in Russia this year, despite reports on the Metallurg Magnitogorsk Web site on Monday that their MVP had re-worked his contract with the team to remain through the 2006-07 season. Agents J.P. Barry and Pat Brisson maintain that Malkin wants to play in the NHL this year.

Until there is official word, Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said, the team won't be able to comment on the situation.

But at some point, general manager Ray Shero will have to start looking to fill Malkin's penciled-in slot at No. 2 center, if he hasn't already.

One possibility could come from within.

The Penguins drafted another highly regarded center this past June, No. 2 overall pick Jordan Staal.

But Staal, who won't turn 18 until Sept. 10, may not be ready for the NHL yet. Until he proves in training camp that he can make the leap, agent Paul Krepelka said they won't begin to discuss a contract.

"There's no intention of doing (a contract) beforehand," Krepelka said yesterday.

It's rare for an 18-year-old prospect to make an NHL team in his draft year, as Sidney Crosby did so successfully with the Penguins last season. But Jordan's brother, Eric, also a center and also drafted second overall, made the Carolina Hurricanes' roster the year he was drafted and played as an 18-year-old, getting 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points in 81 games in 2003-04.

"Obviously (Jordan is) going to camp with the intention of making the team, but we'll let it play out," Krepelka said. "He's got the chance to do it. But the NHL is a difficult league to play in, never mind as an 18-year-old kid. If he proves he belongs with the big boys, we'll act accordingly."

The Penguins also have prospects Erik Christensen and Maxime Talbot, who each saw time at center in the NHL last year.

If Shero turns to the free-agent market, the pickings are slim with training camps set to open in about a month.

Yanic Perreault, 35, whom the Penguins were rumored to be talking to last month, is still available, as is Trevor Linden, 36, although he's expected to return to the Vancouver Canucks. Other centers still on the market include ex-Penguins Jan Hrdina, 30, and Greg Johnson, 35, as well as Jim Dowd, 37, Boyd Devereaux, 27, Erik Rasmussen, 29, Jason Allison, 31, and Clarke Wilm, 29.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.