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  • Thursday, June 29, 2000

    Yashin owes Sens

    Loses arbitration case

    By LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

      The National Hockey League is breathing a sigh of relief today, while Alexei Yashin might yet play again for the Ottawa Senators.

     An arbitrator ruled in favour of the league yesterday, ruling Yashin's holdout from the Senators and his subsequent suspension for the 1999-2000 season means he owes Ottawa another year of service at $3.6 million US.

     In a 17-page decision, arbitrator Lawrence Holden of Boston refuted the NHL Players' Association's argument that the centre should become a restricted free agent as of Saturday. Yashin sat out what was to have been the final season of a five-year deal.

     "This case was not about whether Alexei should or should not have played during the 1999-2000 season," Ian Pulver, associate counsel for the NHLPA, said. "This was a case about whether Alexei owed another year on his contract. From a legal perspective, we think the arbitrator reached the wrong decision."

     But rather than trade Yashin now, the Sens could be trying to patch things up. A highly placed source told The Ottawa Sun that the team is expected to announce Yashin will be welcomed back next season. The team already may have sent Yashin a letter to that effect.

     A second arbitration hearing is scheduled for next month regarding the league's contention the Sens should get $7 million US in damages because Yashin's refusal to report hurt their performance on the ice as well as in sales of tickets and merchandise. But with yesterday's win, the Sens could withdraw, not anxious to open their books for public scrutiny.

     The league received something it couldn't get through collective bargaining -- language to prevent a player from getting around a contract by sitting out.

     "It restores your faith in the validity of a contract," Bill Watters, assistant to the president of the Maple Leafs, said of the ruling.

     "This is a great decision," Calgary Flames co-owner Harley Hotchkiss said. "I think there has to be some sanctity of contracts."

     Many agents weren't shocked at the verdict.

     "I want to be careful what I say on this subject but I think this sends the message that if you have a contract, then you should honour it," Ottawa-based lawyer Larry Kelly told The Ottawa Sun.

     Other agents didn't see it as a huge setback with their day-to-day dealings.

     "I really believe what you had here was a unique situation," Toronto-based agent Pat Morris said. "I know the league is going to look at this as a precedent-setting victory. But I don't think you'd see many players who have the type of resolve Alexei Yashin has and will sit out for a whole season.

     "I don't think if he had won it would have opened up the floodgates."

     -- with files from Bruce Garrioch, Sun Media

    OTTAWA SENATORS



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