I somehow missed this (don't you know I read every single word written on the Internet?), but this whole Pavel Valentenko defection episode is now officially a lot weirder than it was when it started.
Eric McErlain, who blogs both for The Sporting News and AOL Fanhouse, wrote this entry on Friday. For those too lazy to click the link, McErlain asked a Sovetsky Sport reporter to translate an interview Valentenko gave to the Russian newspaper after signing his contract with Moscow Dynamo of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Valentenko tells the newspaper that he wanted to be closer to his family and that "Montreal let me go without a problem, they were very considerate." Oh, is that why the Canadiens suspended him as soon as Dynamo released the news of his signing on its web site, but not before?
The Canadiens and the Hamilton Bulldogs were under the impression he was going to Russia to deal with some family issues, not to completely disregard his contractual obligations here to sign with another professional hockey team.
The young defenceman also says he's only signed through the end of the current season, and that he may be back in Montreal next year. Later in the same article, Mikhail Golovkov, president of Dynamo, says the contract is for three years, which is exactly what was written on the team's web site when the news was released.
Obviously, Valentenko doesn't have all of his facts straight. For one thing, the chances of him being back in Montreal are slim to none, with a very strong leaning towards none.
The youngster's confusion does lend credence to his North American agent Rolland Hedges' version of the story, which is that Valentenko's contract with Dynamo had already been negotiated by his father before he even arrived in Moscow. If the kid doesn't even know how long he's signed for, it's pretty safe to assume he wasn't very involved in the contract negotiation.
Another interesting aspect of the Sovetsky Sport article, at least as its translated, is that Dynamo coach Vladimir Vujtek - interestingly enough a former Habs prospect who was traded to the Oilers in the deal that brought Vincent Damphousse to Montreal - knows nothing about Valentenko and needed to check out some video of him. Has anyone in the Dynamo organization ever seen this kid play as a professional, or did he grab this contract on reputation alone?
In any case, his reputation in North America has taken an irrevocable blow.