League, Blue Jackets confident he'll stay

Updated: January 28, 2004, 11:48 AM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An arbitrator was chosen to decide whether Columbus Blue Jackets rookie Nikolai Zherdev can stay in the United States.

The Russian hockey federation claims that the 19-year-old player from Ukraine has yet to meet military obligations in his homeland. The NHL, Blue Jackets, Zherdev and his agent believe he should be allowed to remain in the United States.

William Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, said the league chose Stephan Netzle of Switzerland from a list of three arbitrators submitted by the International Ice Hockey Federation. Netzle accepted the offer on Monday.

"All I've been told is that if the hearing goes forward it will be some time after Feb. 16," Columbus assistant general manager Jim Clark said. "Beyond that, we don't know much."

Zherdev, a fast right wing, has six goals and seven assists in 26 games since joining the Blue Jackets on Dec. 2. He was selected to play in the YoungStars game during next month's All-Star weekend.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press