Lightning, Artyukhin: Burying the hatchet?
That seems to be the case, if you take what agent Mark Gandler said on Thursday. The representative for Russian freight train Evgeny Artyukhin said he and Tampa Bay are talking about a contract. This would be a good thing for the Lightning as the 6-foot-4, 254-pound left wing would provide some muscle and forechecking power to a team that, for the most part last season, lacked a physical edge.
The Lightning was mum Thursday, but Gandler said, "Both sides want to see Evgeny back playing in Tampa next season and for the next few seasons."
Of a contract, he said, without giving specifics, "It think it's doable and it should be done."
This is an interesting turn of events, if it happens as the relationship between team and player, drafted 94th overall in 2001, has been contentious. After playing 72 games for the Lightning in 2005-06, Artyukhin, after a contract dispute, played 2006-07 in Russia for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and had five goals, 13 points and 183 penalty minutes in 44 games. At the time, whispers were Artyukhin wanted $1-million a season. The Lightning offered one year at $600,000 and two years at $1.2-million ($500,000 and $700,000).
More contract squabbles in May led Artyukhin, though Gandler, to demand a trade. The Lightning, which had offered the league minimum $475,000 (a sum Gandler said was to punish his client for turning down the 2006-07 offers), said no. And Artyukhin split last season between Omsk and Russia's Central Army team.
Both sides, though, seem drawn to each other because of need. Artyukhin, though getting big money in his native Russia (probably in the $1-million range), has never flourished there. The Lightning would make the argument that his game, playing in an inferior league, has likely taken steps back. But Tampa Bay needs more of a physical presence. These needs might just be enough to bring the sides together. We'll see.