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Yashin fighting for freedom. Senators star gearing up for court battle against arbitrator's ruling
By BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun
Alexei Yashin is fighting back for his right to become a restricted free agent.
Papers were filed by Yashin's representatives at the Ottawa courthouse last Friday, asking an Ontario court to quash a June decision by an independent arbitrator which stated that Yashin owes the club the final year of his contract.
Fred Seller, Yashin's Ottawa-based lawyer, wouldn't make any comments on the case yesterday because the matter is scheduled to go before Ontario Justice Doug Cunningham on Sept. 1. But he did confirm the papers have been filed.
In what may be an unprecedented move in NHL history, Yashin is asking the Ontario Court to decide whether he should be able to ply his services elsewhere this season instead of owing the Senators another year.
"Once the matter has been decided by the courts, we'll be more than willing to discuss it. I really don't want to say anything right now," said Seller, a partner in the Ottawa-based law firm of Yegendorf, Brazeau, Seller, Prehogan and Wyllie.
After listening to arguments from the NHL, the Senators and Yashin's legal team, independent arbitrator Lawrence Holden of Toronto ruled in June that Yashin still owed the club the final year of his $3.6-million US contract.
In asking for a judicial review of the decision, Yashin's camp contends that Holden had no right to rule on the issue because it doesn't fall within his jurisdiction and therefore, his verdict shouldn't have been allowed.
According to Holden's decision, Yashin can't play anywhere else in the world until he reports to the Senators camp and completes the final year of his deal. Only then would he will be allowed to shop his services elsewhere.
But Yashin, his agent Mark Gandler and Seller don't believe that should be the case. They're not asking Cunningham to overturn Holden's decision -- they're contending he never should have been able to make the ruling in the first place.
Yashin is currently training in Switzerland and while he's been invited to attend Senators training camp next month in Ottawa, he has no intentions of being there. The move is proof he no longer wants to play for owner Rod Bryden.
Though it's doubtful anybody would sign Yashin if he was given his right to restricted free agency, a victory in the court means that he could elect to play in Europe this year until the Senators give up the fight and finally deal him.
"We're not going to make any comments," said Gandler from his New Jersey home. "This is a matter before the courts and it wouldn't be right for us to say anything."
Under the rules of the arbitration process in the league's collective bargaining agreement, an arbitrator's decision is "final and binding." But the player or club has the right to seek judicial review if they desire.
"We haven't seen the document, so we're not going to make any comments until we've seen it," NHL Players Association spokesman Tim Wharnsby said last night.
The Senators and the NHL have been at war with Yashin for the last 12 months. After declaring he wouldn't attend the club's training camp, the Ottawa captain spent the winter in Kloten, Switzerland, staying in shape.
Ideally, the Senators would like him to simply report to camp and honour the contract. Then GM Marshall Johnston might be willing to talk about a trade. But Bryden insists that Yashin honour his deal before making any kind of move.
While the Senators are directly involved in the issue, team spokesman Phil Legault referred all questions to NHL VP of communications Frank Brown.
Brown said the league can't make any comments at this time, but it's possible a statement could be issued in the next few days.
"We haven't seen a copy of the document, so it would be speculative and inappropriate to say anything at this time," said Brown.
One thing is certain. The next time Yashin comes to Ottawa, he won't
be wearing a Senators sweater -- he'll be in a suit at the court on Elgin
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