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Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov announced Wednesday he would return to his native Russia after a nearly yearlong suspension by the NHL for domestic violence.
Voynov pleaded no contest in July to a misdemeanor of spousal abuse. In early September, immigration officials took Voynov into custody. He had four years at a $4.167 million salary cap hit per-season remaining on his six-year contract. Voynov was initially charged with a felony.
Voynov was suspended with pay, though his contract did not count against the Kings’ salary cap.
“Treatment of his contract will depend on what the Club opts to do,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said via email. “But if the player is not playing in the League and he is not receiving salary, there is no cap charge. That would be true of any player.”
The Kings also suspended Voynov for suffering a torn Achilles tendon during non-hockey activity.
Here are the details from the preliminary hearing of Voynov’s case.
Voynov last played for the Kings on Oct. 19, 2014.
Said Voynov via a statement through his agent Rolland Hedges per the Orange County Register:
"Earlier today, I notified the National Hockey League, the National Hockey League Players’ Association and the Los Angeles Kings of my decision to immediately begin the formal process of returning to Russia with my family. I sincerely apologize to those in and around the game of hockey, who have been affected by my situation, and I also wish the players of the L.A. Kings success in the future."
The Kings also released their own statement:
On July 2, Slava Voynov entered a plea of no contest to domestic violence. Since that development, Mr. Voynov has been in the custody of the Seal Beach Detention Center and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. During this period of detention, the Los Angeles Kings decided he would no longer play for the team. The method by which we would ensure this outcome was something we carefully considered and we established a deadline of September 17 – the beginning of our 2015-16 training camp – to reach this outcome. Recently it became evident to us that our conclusion to this process would be to terminate Mr. Voynov’s Standard Player’s Contract. However, Mr. Voynov’s announcement today of his intention to leave the United States and return to Russia makes the termination unnecessary.
As we have publicly stated since Mr. Voynov’s arrest last year, the Kings organization will not tolerate domestic violence. As part of that commitment, we will soon announce a series of new Conduct Awareness Training Initiatives that reflect the values and principles central to our franchise.
According to LA Kings Insider, Voynov is “voluntarily departing” which means he could attempt to apply for a visa and re-enter the country, though that’s a difficult option to foresee at this time.
From a Sept. 3 article in the Los Angeles Times on Voynov’s situation.
Daniel Todd, a San Diego lawyer who specializes in immigration matters, said an option open to Voynov is to voluntarily leave the U.S. immediately and reapply for a visa. But there is no straightforward answer.
“His lawyers didn’t seem to think he was going to be deportable based on this when they took the plea,” Todd said. “They may realize that he’s stuck now and he has to just take it.”
Per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Kings could suspend Voynov and retain his rights. This means the team could technically trade the defenseman, though if Voynov returns to the NHL, he could still face discipline.
Voynov, 25, played three full seasons with the Kings, helping the team to two Stanley Cups. Earlier in the summer, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi announced he would bring in people to teach the team about domestic violence along with drug abuse.
Training camp is set to start Thursday for Los Angeles.
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