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Svitov agent accuses Russians of extortion

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 30, 2001

TAMPA -- The agent for Lightning draft pick Alexander Svitov said the president of Avangard Omsk, the Russian Elite League team for which Svitov plays, is trying to extort money from Tampa Bay.

Jay Grossman said Anatoly Bardin's letter to the Lightning that threatens a $500,000 lawsuit over Svitov's situation proves the whole episode is a money grab.

"The bottom line is they're trying to extort money over and above what they're entitled to. ... There is no motive other than that," Grossman said. "They are doing everything in their power to make the agreement meaningless."

The agreement is between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation in which the NHL pays the IIHF a lump sum to compensate European teams that lose players to North America. The IIHF distributes the money to individual teams.

The Lightning drafted the Russian center third overall and signed him to a three-year, $3.6-million contract. Svitov has been playing for Omsk and is apparently unable to leave Russia until a two-year military obligation is completed in December 2002.

That's why Lightning assistant general manager Jay Feaster does not understand a claim for damages as Svitov is still under Omsk's control.

"No court would even hear it," Feaster said.

While attorneys in Russia, hired by the Lightning, determined Svitov took a military oath in December, Grossman said Svitov "never served a single day in the military. Whether he was inducted, when he was inducted, all this was kept secret by Bardin."

Grossman is involved as well. He said he received a letter, apparently signed by Svitov and teammate Stanislav Chistov, drafted No. 5 by the Mighty Ducks, that said he was fired as their agent.

"It was signed under duress," Grossman said. "The players have reaffirmed us as their agent. ... It's a crazy story. It's taken on a life of its own."

MOVES: The Lightning sent defenseman Josef Boumedienne to AHL Springfield. The move was not unexpected. The 23-year-old had been scratched in five consecutive games.

"I can't do anything about it except work hard and wait until I get my chance," Boumedienne said.

Playing time has been scarce for Boumedienne and Sascha Goc, both of whom were acquired from the Devils in the trade for Andrei Zyuzin. Goc has been scratched in three of eight games, including Thursday's, and is averaging just 10:23 of ice time.

Coach John Tortorella said it's not that the two did anything wrong. Rather, the Lightning's core group of defensemen has been doing things right.

"If we're happy with the core right now, they have to be patient," Tortorella said of any additions to the roster.

And when they do get a chance, "Don't let us take you out."

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW: Brad Richards was awarded an assist on Martin St. Louis' goal Tuesday night against the Bruins. Richards has a goal and three assists in his past four games, and going into Thursday led the team in points (16) and assists (12).

ODDS AND ENDS: Tampa Bay has 22 roster players. Teams are allowed 23. No immediate call-up is expected. ... Right wing Brian Holzinger (torn rotator cuff) was scratched. ... The Lightning said it received 1,200 donations Thursday of toys or money for Toys for Tots.

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