The Washington Capitals suspended touted prospect Alexander Semin indefinitely yesterday for failing to report to the club's minor league affiliate in Portland, Maine, General Manager George McPhee said.
Although NHL owners locked out players on Sept. 15, Semin is not among those affected because his entry-level, two-way contract allows him to be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. Semin is instead playing for Lada Togliatti of the Russian Super League, according to his agent, Dmitri Goryachkin.
"Alexander's NHL contract is a standard entry-level agreement, which permits us to assign him to our minor league affiliate," McPhee said in a statement. "Unfortunately, he decided not to report to Portland, and the Russian team he is playing for does not respect our contract. In the absence of an agreement between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation, neither entity has been able to remedy this issue with the Russian Federation as quickly as we would like. We will continue our efforts to resolve this matter."
Goryachkin said the 20-year-old Russian winger asked the Capitals to allow him to play for Lada Togliatti during the lockout because he felt the level of competition is superior to the AHL's. In Russia, Semin plays on a line with locked-out NHL standouts Viktor Kozlov and Dainius Zubrus, who also plays for Washington.
The Capitals denied Semin's request and made arrangements for Semin to fly from Russia to Portland on Sunday. Semin planned to comply, Goryachkin said, but was served with papers at his apartment on Sunday morning by local officials saying he wasn't allowed to leave the country because he had not fulfilled his two-year military service requirement.
On Monday, Semin was back playing for Lada Togliatti.
"He agreed to follow what the Washington Capitals wanted," Goryachkin said. "I don't have the full picture of what happened yet. This has happened with other young Russian players in the past. Instead of suspending him, the Capitals should try to help him resolve this matter."
Washington wanted Semin, who had 10 goals and 12 assists in 52 games last season, to play in Portland until the NHL season begins so he could familiarize himself with the North American style of play and learn to speak English.
Semin's failure to report to Portland further frustrates the Capitals. Semin missed the Capitals' charter flight to Pittsburgh for the season finale. He also has upset team officials for his perceived lack of interest in learning English.
Semin's contract with the Capitals called for him to earn $1.185 million in the NHL and about $75,000 in the AHL. His contract with Lada likely is believed to be worth at least $200,000.
-- Tarik El-Bashir