Capitals suing Semin, agent for breach of contract

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."