NEW YORK -- A Russian hockey club filed an antitrust lawsuit Thursday against the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins, saying rookie Evgeni Malkin shouldn't be allowed to play in the league because he remains under contract in his native country.
The Metallurg Magnitogorsk hockey club, which filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also demanded unspecified damages from the NHL and the Penguins over Malkin's deal to jump teams this summer.
NHL spokesman Frank Brown said he hadn't seen a copy of the complaint and couldn't comment. Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said the team hadn't received the lawsuit and doesn't comment on litigation.
Malkin, 20, left the Russian Super League team during August's training camp in Helsinki, Finland, slipping quietly into the United States to begin his NHL career. In his debut Wednesday night, Malkin scored the Penguins' goal in a 2-1 loss to New Jersey.
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 labor 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 Aug. 7 that called for Malkin to receive $3.45 million, according to the lawsuit.
It said the contract was negotiated and signed in the presence of Malkin's Russian agent and his parents, and provided favorable terms allowing him to become a free agent a year sooner than an earlier contract.
Malkin, the No. 2 pick in the 2004 NHL draft, missed the early part of the season after dislocating a shoulder in his first preseason 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 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 labor law.