- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2005

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Washington Capitals filed suit yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington seeking to force Alexander Semin to honor his contract and return to the team this season.

The action is the latest step in the Caps’ long-running attempt to get the star back from the Russian Super League, where he has been playing the past two seasons for Lada Togliatti.

The suit was filed against Semin; his agent, Mark Gandler; and Gandler’s firm, International Sports Advisors Co. Semin dropped International Management Group as his agent a few months ago and signed with Gandler, who handles mostly Russian clients.

“We have done everything we could to avoid this step. … We felt we had no choice but to seek legal remedy,” Washington general manager George McPhee said.

“His new agent [Gandler] has told us that Alex is under military obligation. … However, Alex is playing professional hockey,” McPhee’s statement said. The suit, according to McPhee, urges the court to order Semin to return for this season.

The dispute between the two sides is nothing new. The Caps ordered Semin to report to the Portland (Maine) Pirates of the American Hockey League for the start of the 2004-05 season during the NHL lockout, but the left wing never showed up. He said he was stopped at an airport trying to leave and told by Russian authorities he had two years of military duty to serve. He played all last season for Lada.

Washington suspended Semin, but the Russian league did not recognize the penalty because there was no International Ice Hockey Federation agreement in place. This season there is a new agreement that has been signed by all member countries except Russia, and Semin continues to play even though his suspension remains in effect.

Last summer Semin told his IMG agents that he wanted to report to the Caps, but he never boarded a plane, and the NHL season started without him. A month ago Lada’s sports arm came under severe financial pressure, and there will be drastic cutbacks, with some management personnel already fired and players facing the ax next month.

Semin, who played 52 games for the Caps three years ago, was scheduled to make $900,600 in the NHL this season, the second of his three-year contract. In Russia, he is reportedly making the equivalent of $2 million tax free plus a car and a condominium.

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