“We haven’t seen a copy of the complaint yet so it would be inappropriate to comment,” said NHL spokesman Frank Brown. Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said the team hadn’t received the lawsuit and doesn’t comment on litigation.
The 20-year-old Malkin left the Russian Super League team during August’s training camp in Helsinki, slipping quietly into the United States to begin his NHL career. In his debut Wednesday night, Malkin scored his team’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Malkin was under contract for another year in Russia. The NHL had previously said the league believes any player should have the right to choose where he wants to play as long as he is legally free to do so.
After Malkin left his Russian team, he cited a Russian labour law that permits an employee to leave a job by giving two weeks notice.
The lawsuit, filed after a Russian arbitration panel ruled that Malkin is still under contract to Magnitogorsk, said the signing of Malkin to an NHL contract was a “blatant and deliberate tampering and interference” with the Russian team’s existing agreement.
In the lawsuit, the team said the Penguins knew or should have known that Malkin was under contract to a Russian team when they signed him. The lawsuit said the NHL and the Penguins violated antitrust laws by conspiring in a group boycott and refusing to deal with Russian hockey clubs regarding player transfers.
Malkin and Magnitogorsk signed a one-year contract on Aug. 7, calling for Malkin to receive US$3.45 million, according to the lawsuit, which is more than the entry-level salary he’ll draw this year in the NHL.
It said the contract was negotiated and signed in the presence of Malkin’s Russian agent and his parents, and provided favourable terms allowing him to become a free agent a year sooner than an earlier contract.
Malkin, the No. 2 pick in the 2005 NHL draft, missed the early part of the NHL season after dislocating a shoulder in his first pre-season game.
The lawsuit said the NHL and its clubs have “decided to play hardball” with Russian hockey clubs to punish them for the Russian Ice Hockey Federation’s rejection of a new general agreement governing the transfer of foreign players to the NHL.
It said the NHL told its clubs on Aug. 2 that they were free to sign NHL contracts with Russian hockey players already under contract with Russian hockey clubs if the players secured releases according to Russian labour law.
Earlier this week lawsuit was also filed on behalf of Russian club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. The lawsuit claimed that Andrei Taratukhin of the Calgary Flames and Alexei Mikhnov of the Edmonton Oilers are under contract with Yaroslavl for the 2006-07 season and should not be allowed to play for any other club in the world. It asked the U.S. federal court for a temporary injunction barring the two players from skating for the two NHL teams.