A New York Rangers star is taking a leave of absence after allegations of him assaulting a teenage girl surface.
According to ESPN's Emily Kaplan, Artemi Panarin was accused by his former NHL player and Panarin's former Kontinental Hockey League coach, Andrei Nazarov, in a Russian newspaper that Panarin got into a physical altercation in 2011 with an 18-year-old woman in Latvia.
In a statement on Monday, the Rangers said they fully supported Panarin as he takes "time away from the team."
"Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story," the team said in a statement. "This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events. Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations."
According to ESPN's translation of the newspaper article, Latvia opened up a criminal case, but "a sum of 40k Euro cash" was paid by someone to make sure the case never happened.
Nazarov, who played 571 games in the NHL, said he spoke out because he disagreed with Panarin’s criticism of the Russian government, The Associated Press reported.