Malkin inks his first NHL contract

He had slipped away from his Russian team about three weeks ago.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Evgeni Malkin signed his first NHL contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday, slightly more than three weeks since slipping away from his Russian team and making a clandestine trip to the United States.
Malkin, who skated with Sidney Crosby earlier in the day during an informal workout, watched wide-eyed as the team showed a highlights reel of some of his top plays to reporters.
The 19-year-old Malkin, widely considered the top player in the world not previously in the NHL, said while speaking though an interpreter that he was worried at times about his safety after sneaking away from his Russian Super League Metallurg Magnitogorsk team in Helsinki.
"I definitely was a little concerned," Malkin said, speaking through interpreter Olga McQueen.
While waiting for his visa, he stayed for three days in a hotel only about a half-mile from the Russian Embassy and had to walk past it to go to the American Embassy and get his travel visa to the United States.
Training in L.A.
Malkin has been training in Los Angeles since arriving in the United States Aug. 17, but will begin working out with the Penguins as they prepare to open rookie training camp Friday.
"It is a very exciting day for the Pittsburgh Penguins and we commend Evgeni on his courage to come to Pittsburgh and live out his dream to play in the NHL," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said.
Malkin arrived in Pittsburgh Monday night and had dinner at team owner Mario Lemieux's house, then took part in an informal skate with some Penguins players before attending Tuesday's news conference.
"I've always been very open in my desire to come to come to North America and be one of the best here," Malkin said.
Malkin's contract terms are effectively set by the NHL labor agreement, and he signed a deal identical to that reached by last season's rookie of the year, Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin, drafted immediately ahead of Malkin, has a base salary of $984,2000, plus incentives worth $2.85 million per season. Ovechkin's contract includes $850,000 in relatively easy-to-reach incentives and another $2 million in additional bonuses such as winning a major league award.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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