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Bruins renounce Khristich
Winger will have to try his luck on open market
Posted: Wednesday August 18, 1999 01:17 AM
BOSTON (AP) -- If Dmitri Khristich is really worth $3.5 million a year, as he claimed in arbitration, the offers should start rolling in.
The Bruins forward -- make that former Bruins forward -- became a free agent on Tuesday when the team chose to walk away from an arbitration award for $2.8 million.
It's the first time an NHL club has taken advantage of the "walkaway" rights negotiated as part of the collective bargaining agreement that ended the 1994-95 lockout. They give a team the ability to reject a limited number of arbitration decisions in exchange for giving the player his freedom.
"This was put in to handle what people refer to as a runaway decision, like a runaway judge," Bruins general manager Harry Sinden said. "In case that happens, you had to have some way out."
But in the four arbitration seasons since then, no team had chosen to let a player go without compensation, according to NHL spokesman Frank Brown.
Sinden said the team offered Khristich a contract at last year's salary of $1.95 million, but he asked the arbitrator for $3.5 million. Khristich's agent, Larry Kelly, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The Bruins retain the right to match for any contract Khristich signs that is less than 80 percent of the $2.8 million arbitration award, or $2,240,000.
"We strongly disagree with the arbitrator's assessment that Dmitri is a $2.8 million player," Sinden said. "We had a player almost triple his salary in two years. It just didn't add up."
The Bruins tried to trade Khristich during the 72 hours allotted for a decision but found no one willing to take on the $2.8 million salary, either. That left Sinden, who had been active in negotiations during the lockout and a vocal opponent of rising player salaries, to make the ground-breaking move.
"I didn't have that in mind, I can tell you that," he said. "The way teams conduct their business is none of my business."
Khristich made $1 million in 1997-98 before winning a $1.95 million arbitration award last season, when he scored 29 goals and had 41 assists. In a nine-year NHL career, the 30-year-old left wing from Kiev, Ukraine, has scored 225 goals with 282 assists for a total of 507 points.
In a news release announcing their decision, the Bruins noted that Khristich's production tailed off from 18 goals in the first half of last season to 11 in the second half. Sinden had also been critical of his performance in the playoffs, when he had three goals and four assists in 12 games.
Sinden left open a slim possibility that Khristich would return to the Bruins for a lower salary. Otherwise, the team is prepared to enter the season with the forwards it has; the Bruins signed Dave Andreychuk as a free agent earlier this summer.
"We may not get all the way there with Andreychuk," he said. "But we feel like we've got plenty of forwards. We feel in a position to replace Dmitri on the team so the team doesn't get hurt."
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