Capitals suing Semin, agent for breach of contract

Updated: October 28, 2005, 6:05 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals are suing Alexander Semin and his agent for breach of contract because the left wing is playing in his native Russia instead of reporting to the NHL team.

"This is not personal; it's business. This course of action was encouraged by our law firm and the NHL," Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote Friday in his Owner's Corner column on the team Web site. "We have a contract with Alexander, and we want his agent and Russian hockey team to honor that commitment."

Semin, taken in the first round of the 2002 NHL draft, signed a three-year deal with the Capitals in 2003. He played for Washington in 2003-04, then was told to report to AHL club Portland in September 2004 during the NHL lockout. Instead, Semin went to play for Russian team Lada Togliatti.

The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, asks that Semin be barred from playing for any team other than the Capitals during the 2005-06 season. It seeks damages from Semin's agent, Mark Gandler of International Sports Advisors Company, Inc., to cover the $1,000-per-day fines Semin is subject to for not reporting, and the $2.28 million the Capitals are paying left wing Jeff Friesen this season "to fill Semin's spot." The Capitals traded for Friesen in September.

Gandler did not immediately return a voice mail message left at his office Friday.

"We have done everything we could to avoid this step, but we felt we had no choice but to now seek a legal remedy," Capitals general manager George McPhee said.

The lawsuit says Gandler told the Capitals that Semin could not leave Russia because of military obligations.

"That alleged 'military obligation' is a sham and Semin is not now, and never has been, validly in the Russian military," the Capitals' complaint says.

The 21-year-old player had 10 goals and 12 assists in 52 games for Washington in 2003-04.

"At some point, I think it's important to take a stand and indicate a willingness to do whatever is necessary to protect your contractual and legal rights," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "The league certainly supports Washington's decision to do that here."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press