Ovechkin Decision May Be Soon

alexander ovechkin - capitals
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan will decide whether District Court in Washington has jurisdiction to enforce an award by a Russian arbitration committee that ruled that Alexander Ovechkin is the contractual property of a Russian Club team. (Jim McIsaac - Getty Images)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 22, 2005

Alex Ovechkin's playing status could be determined as early as this week by a U.S. District Court judge, who yesterday heard arguments in Moscow Dynamo's lawsuit against the Washington Capitals rookie.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan will decide whether District Court in Washington has jurisdiction to enforce an award by a Russian arbitration committee, which ruled in October that Dynamo, not the Capitals, is the rightful owner of Ovechkin's contractual rights for the 2005-06 season.

If Sullivan decides his court has jurisdiction, the next step will be hearing the merits of the case. If not, the lawsuit will be dismissed.

Sullivan's written decision on jurisdiction could come as soon as tomorrow but will most likely get handed down early next week. The judge also encouraged the representatives of both parties to discuss the possibility of a settlement.

"The judge seemed to indicate he won't sit on this, so I would expect a decision pretty quickly," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. "I don't anticipate that this is something that will get settled" out of court.

Ovechkin, who leads the Capitals and all NHL rookies in scoring with 18 goals and 16 assists, did not attend the hearing. He was represented by Peter Sherwin of Proskauer Rose. Dynamo was represented by William Sammons of Tydings & Rosenberg. Daly, Capitals counsel Don Fishman and a representative from the NHL players' association were also in attendance.

Ovechkin, 20, left Dynamo in April after helping it capture the Russian Super League championship and signed a contract with a rival team, Avangard Omsk, for the 2005-06 season. The contract with Omsk contained an "out" clause allowing him to void the one-year deal. Ovechkin exercised the clause on July 20 and signed with the Capitals, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004.

But Dynamo claims it matched the financial terms of Omsk's offer ($1.8 million), thus retaining Ovechkin's contractual rights under Russian Super League rules. Dynamo's matching offer, however, did not include an "out" clause.

The Capitals have dismissed the case as nothing more than an attempt by Dynamo to be compensated financially. However, Dynamo officials have repeatedly said they are not motivated by money.

When Sullivan asked Dynamo's attorney whether a settlement would be considered by his client, Sammons said he did not have the authority to initiate those discussions.

Kolzig Named to German Olympic Team

Goalie Olie Kolzig yesterday was officially named to Germany's Olympic hockey team, which will compete in February in Turin, Italy. Kolzig, who was born in Johannesburg to parents of German descent, represented Germany in the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Capitals goaltending prospect Robert Muller will back up Kolzig on Team Germany.

Although Russia isn't expected to release its 23-man roster until today, the list is virtually certain to include Ovechkin, according to two sources. Capitals captain Jeff Halpern, meantime, said he was disappointed to learn Monday he had not been chosen to represent the United States. The veteran center said he was not told in person of the decision, but figured he probably would be excluded when hadn't heard from USA Hockey the previous week.

"It's disappointing," Halpern said. "Knowing how big the Olympics are, it would have been a huge thrill for me. There are a lot of guys [on the team] who you can argue one way or another. But I needed a better statistical year to help my case. I wish I was going, but there's not much I can do now."

Halpern could still be named one of three alternates, who would play only as injury replacements.

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