Dmitri Khristich became a free agent yesterday as the Bruins exercised their option to "walk away" from an arbitrator's award that would pay him $2.8 million next season.

The move is believed to mark the first time a team has walked away from an arbitration award since the collective bargaining agreement took effect in January 1995.

Bruins General Manager Harry Sinden said Khristich, the team's second-leading scorer last season, behind C Jason Allison, with 29 goals and 42 assists, wasn't worth that much money.

"We strongly disagree with the arbitrator's assessment that Dmitri is a $2.8 million player," said Sinden, who unsuccessfully tried to trade the forward before and after his arbitration ruling Monday.

Khristich, 30, made $1.95 million last season, his second with the Bruins, and was seeking $3.5 million.

He was due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. . . .

Senators D Jason York was awarded a one-year, $1.4 million contract by an arbitrator, almost doubling his salary.

York, 29, was seeking about $2 million, while the team offered about $1 million.

He made $750,000 last year, his third with the Senators.

MORE TIME FOR MARIO: Mario Lemieux doesn't have to close on his plan to buy the bankrupt Penguins by the end of the week because the team has enough money to stay afloat through the end of August.

The Penguins' line of credit with a French bank runs out Friday, but the team can borrow enough money to keep running if Lemieux's deal does not close by the end of this week, said James Walsh, a bankruptcy lawyer representing the Penguins.