Artyukhin signs in Russia
Just a follow-up on yesterday's news about Evgeny Artyukhin. Seems the Russian freight train has signed to play next season with Avangard Omsk in Russia's Super League, at least that is what his agent, Mark Gandler, said. Gandler said Tampa Bay's one-year, $475,000 offer was not good enough. In fact, Gandler said the offer, the league minimum next season, was an attempt by Lightning general manager Jay Feaster to punish Artyukhin for turning down several contract offers last season before signing with Russia's Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.
"I am surprised the team continued to build up the anger that was there a year ago, but it's kind of busting through the seams,'' Gandler said. "The offer in itself is proof of that anger. The punishment aspect of the offer is so obvious, it hits you right in the forehead.''
You recall that situation, right? Artyukhin, it was said, wanted up to $1-million to play in 2006-07, and turned down two offers -- a one-year, $600,000 deal and a two-year contract with salaries of $500,000 and $700,000. Artyukhin said no to both, went to Russia and had a disappointing season in which he had just 13 points and 183 penalty minutes in 44 games.
Feaster said the disappointing season factored into this year's contract offer, and that it had nothing to do with anger or punishment.
"Our concern is being a full year removed from the NHL and playing in our system, we have to spend training camp and the first two months of the season breaking old habits,'' he said. "We're going to have to spend time inculcating him to the way we want to play instead of getting a player who advanced his career.''
Feaster said his offer is final. With little hope of reconciliation, Gandler said he has requested Tampa Bay trade Artyukhin's rights. But Feaster responded there will be no trade, "I will not allow a player to dictate how we manage the hockey club.''
It's been quite a saga for Artyukhin, who became a fan favorite in 2005-06 when he had four goals, 17 points and 90 penalty minutes in 77 games for Tampa Bay. Artyukhin, 24, has always been an interesting project. At 6-foot-4, 254 pounds, he can skate swiftly, forecheck ferociously and check like a sledge hammer. For a team such as the Lightning, which is trying to increase its toughness, he would have been a nice addition.
But Feaster said his offer was final and Gandler did not sound as if Artyukhin was interested in lowering his price or swallowing some pride.
There will be more on this in tomorrow's paper.