Zherdev ruled not in Russian army

Nikolai Zherdev and the Columbus Blue Jackets are winners off the ice, having received a favorable ruling from an arbitrator regards his contract status in the NHL.

Zherdev, the 19-year-old Eastern European who was slated to play for Russia in the World Junior Championships, became the center of an international dispute when he left his Russian-based team, CSKA Moscow for the Jackets in mid-season.

A source told ESPN.com that the arbitrator, Stephan Netzle of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, ruled in favor of the Blue Jackets because the team had followed all of the rules of the current agreement between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation regards and had the paperwork to prove it. The arbitrator further ruled that he found no evidence that Zherdev was a member of the Russian military at the time he left CSKA Moscow for the United States.

"This has been a difficult few months for Nikolai, but he is to
be commended for the way he has handled everything," Columbus
president and general manager Doug MacLean told The Associated Press.

The ruling could have far reaching implications regarding Russia's determining which of its players are eligible members of the military. It could also have an impact regards Russia's participation in future agreements between the IIFH (of which Russia is a member) and the NHL. The current agreement between the Federation and the NHL expires later this year and a new one has yet to be negotiated.

Zherdev was the fourth player taken in the NHL Entry Draft last summer. His impact on the struggling Blue Jackets has been minimal, but his talent is unquestioned.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.