Forward Alexander Radulov shouldn't have signed a deal with a team in his native Russia while still under contract with the Nashville Predators, the International Ice Hockey Federation said on Wednesday.
However, hockey's world governing body said it can't prevent Radulov from competing because of a lack of agreement which deals with international transfers.
Radulov signed with the club Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the Continental Hockey League (KHL) in July.
But the IIHF found that Radulov had a legal agreement requiring him to remain with the Predators for one more year.
Radulov's case has been the focus of a bigger clash between the NHL and Russia's new league over respecting players' contracts.
The two leagues were scheduled to meet Wednesday after the New York Rangers played an exhibition game against Metallurg Magnitogorsk — the first contest involving an NHL and Russian team in 17 years.
Radulov signed his Russian contract one day after the NHL, KHL and International Ice Hockey Federation had reached an agreement that leagues would respect existing player contracts regardless of borders.
The KHL has also previously agreed to let an arbitrator decide Radulov's fate. However, the details of a location and time have not been decided.
"Until the court decision, he will play in Russia," KHL chairman Alexander Medvedev told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he hoped the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, would handle the case.
"The actions of the Russian team and the Russian league in allowing him to continue to play is really a slap in the face to what is a well-established legal principle to respect each other's contracts," said Daily.
Paul Kelly, the executive director of the NHL Players' Association, was also at the meeting.
The IIHF ordered the probe shortly after Radulov signed a reported $13-million US tax-free over three years three-year deal.
Nashville suspended Radulov indefinitely, but the IIHF said the federation was powerless to take action against the Russian. "The IIHF does not support breach of valid and binding agreements," it said in a statement. "However, the current IIHF statutes and bylaws — as well the absence of an agreement regarding respect of valid contracts between the IIHF and NHL— does not give the IIHF legal base to sanction the player from professional domestic hockey."
While IIHF president Rene Fasel said Wednesday a new international agreement could be reached by March, the deal would probably be without Russian participation.
"Everybody is interested in our family to do the best for the game," Fasel said. "If we use all our energy to fight each other, this is not the way to go."