PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins are resigned to playing the 2005-06 season without their No. 2 pick in the 2004 NHL draft, Russian center Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin plans to play this season for his hometown team, Mettalurg Magnitogorsk, in Russia’s top pro league. Malkin is under contract with the team through 2008.

The Penguins were hopeful Russia’s hockey federation would accept the transfer agreement worked out between the International Ice Hockey Federation and the other European countries with pro hockey. The agreement sets the fees NHL clubs must pay to secure the rights to European players.

Russia prefers to negotiate the fees on a player-by-player basis, which could substantially drive up the costs of acquiring players such as Malkin. The Penguins drafted Malkin after losing the 2004 draft lottery to Washington, which chose Russian star Alexander Ovechkin with the first pick.

Any hope the rebuilding Penguins had of getting Malkin to the NHL this season ended when Russia declined to accept the IIHF agreement. But Malkin’s agent, Pat Brisson, thinks Malkin will be in the NHL for the 2006-07 season once the compensation issue is resolved.

Malkin does not have an escape clause in his Russian contract, but Brisson is confident Malkin can negotiate a release with his club after this season.

The Penguins have until June 1, 2008, to sign Malkin or relinquish his NHL rights.

Red Wings re-sign Niklas Kronwall

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings re-signed defenseman Niklas Kronwall to a two-year contract.

Selected in the first round, 29th overall, in the 2000 NHL draft, the 24-year-old Kronwall signed with Detroit in 2003 and played most of the 2003-04 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.

Kronwall appeared in 20 games for the Red Wings that season, finishing with one goal and four assists before breaking a leg in January 2004.

Kronwall, from Sweden, led Grand Rapids in scoring, and was the AHL’s top-scoring defenseman, with 53 points in 76 games in 2004-05. He was the first European-born player to win the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s best defenseman.

Phoenix trades Westrum, Wood to Wild for Michalek

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes acquired defenseman Zbynek Michalek from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for center Erik Westrum and defenseman Dustin Wood on Friday.

Michalek, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent in September 2001, played 22 games for the Wild in 2003-04 and had one goal and one assist. He had seven goals and 17 assists in 76 games for the AHL’s Houston Aeros last season. Westrum, a former University of Minnesota star, was a seventh-round draft pick of Phoenix in 1998.

In 2003-04, Westrum had one goal and one assist in 15 games for the Coyotes. He played 80 games for the AHL’s Utah Grizzlies last season and had 18 goals, 15 assists and 117 penalty minutes.

Wood, signed by Phoenix as a free agent in June 2004, played 80 games for Utah last season and had two goals and eight assists.


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