WASHINGTON -- The Capitals on Friday were granted a temporary restraining order against holdout Alexander Semin, preventing the Russian forward's representatives from negotiating contracts with any team other than Washington.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. ruled that Semin, New Jersey-based agent Mark Gandler and Gandler's International Sports Advisors Company, Inc., are forbidden to make "any agreement, contract, trade, loan or other arrangement whereby Semin will play hockey games for any professional hockey team or organization other than the Washington Capitals" until a hearing is held on the team's lawsuit against the player.
A motion on the Capitals' request for a preliminary injunction against Semin will be held Nov. 23. Semin, Gandler and ISA have been given 10 days to respond to the Capitals' complaint.
"It's the first step," Capitals general manager George McPhee said. "Essentially, the court has agreed with the Capitals that what's taking place isn't proper."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the ruling was significant because it also allows the Capitals to serve papers on Semin through his agent.
The Capitals filed suit Oct. 28 in Washington asking that Semin be barred from playing for any team other than Washington during the 2005-06 season. The suit seeks damages from Gandler 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 winger Jeff Friesen, who was acquired in September to take Semin's spot on the roster.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who attended the Capitals' game against Atlanta on Friday, said he supported Washington's legal actions.
"My feeling is that contracts should always be honored. ... This is a situation where a legally binding contract is not being honored and that's not right," Bettman said.
Semin, taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2002 NHL draft, signed a three-year deal with the Capitals in 2003. He played for Washington in 2003-04 and then was told to report to AHL Portland in September 2004 during the NHL lockout. Instead, Semin went to play for Russian team Lada Togliatti.
The Capitals' lawsuit says Gandler told the team that Semin could not leave Russia because of military obligations, a claim the team disputes.
"That alleged 'military obligation' is a sham and Semin is not now, and never has been, validly in the Russian military," the Capitals' complaint said.
The 21-year-old Semin, who had 10 goals and 12 assists in 52 games for Washington in 2003-04, cannot be prevented from playing in his native country because Russia is not part of the NHL's new player transfer agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Russian courts are under no obligation to enforce American law, Daly said, even if a U.S. court decrees Semin cannot play for a foreign team.
Bettman said that Russia would ultimately pay a price for not participating in the transfer program.
"The result of not participating in the development agreement will be the development money that would otherwise flow to Russian ice hockey," the commissioner said. "Youth programs and development programs won't be there."
McPhee said Semin would be welcomed back to the team if he
decides to report.