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Russian court bans Malkin from playing in NHL

MOSCOW -- A Russian arbitration tribunal issued a court order on Friday prohibiting prized rookie Evgeni Malkin from playing in the National Hockey League.

Malkin signed a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins worth at least $3 million this month after leaving his club Metallurg Magnitogorsk last month to pursue a hockey career in the NHL.

The tribunal ruled that the 20-year-old, who had signed a
new one-year contract with his Russian club just days before
fleeing to the United States, cannot play anywhere except in
Magnitogorsk.

Metallurg have said they will seek compensation of at least
$2 million for Malkin from Pittsburgh.

"Metallurg has several options," American lawyer Alexander
Berkovich, representing Magnitogorsk, told Reuters by telephone
from New York.

"The first option is to seek enforcement of the Russian
arbitration award in a U.S. court. This is pursuant to the
[1958] treaty for the enforcement of tribunal awards to which
both the U.S. and Russia are signatories.

"Other options for Magnitogorsk include filing a lawsuit
against the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a U.S. court."

Malkin's defection has sparked a bitter conflict between
Russian hockey officials and their North American counterparts.

"This is pure sports terrorism," said Metallurg general
director Gennady Velichkin after accusing the NHL of stealing
Russia's best players.

The NHL said it would not negotiate compensation packages
with any Russian club after the Russians refused to sign a
transfer agreement with the North American league.

Russia remains the only major hockey power not to join the
deal, approved by the International Ice Hockey Federation in
2005. Under the agreement Metallurg would have received a basic
$200,000 fee for Malkin.