At the age of 27, Alexei Yashin has already made history as the first Russian to be the full-time captain of an NHL team. His predecessor, Alexander Mogilny, wore the letter "C" on his jersey only when Pat LaFontaine had to miss a game because of injury. Yashin had been a part-time captain with the Ottawa Senators in the 1997-98 season when Randy Cunneyworth was absent. After Cunneyworth moved to Buffalo, Senators head coach Jacques Martin appointed the Russian center captain.
Yashin, then 25, was one of the league's youngest captains, but in the 1998-99 season he proved that Martin had made the right choice. The Senators reached second place in the Eastern Conference and Yashin had been among the regular season's five best scorers.
No Russian hockey player has ever been selected as the NHL's first draft pick. Yashin, along with Oleg Tverdovsky and Andrei Zyuzin, was a second-round draft pick. So far, he's surpassed them both. Few rookies are lucky enough to be invited to appear in the All-Star Game after their first season.
Despite the fact that the Senators were then a struggling team, Yashin made good progress and soon became the team's leading player. At 25, he had scored over 30 goals in four successive seasons, winning the respect of his teammates and earning the title of captain.
It is unfortunate that Yashin's career has been repeatedly interrupted by contract disputes. In 1995, after a conflict with the Senators administration, Yashin returned to Russia and even played three games for CSKA. Meanwhile, the Senators' losing streak continued. Four months later, the general manager and chief coach were ousted and Yashin signed a new five-year contract.
However, a second conflict with the team's management wasn't so easily resolved. A year before his five-year contract expired, Yashin and his agent demanded the terms be renegotiated. After his claim was turned down, Yashin went on strike over the existing contract. Yashin missed the entire 1999-00 season in a contract dispute with the Senators that became more controversial as time went on. The Senators refused to trade him or renegotiate his contract, and at year's end he played in the World Championships during Russia's worst performance at the tournament. Yashin's situation got worse when a judge ruled he had to honour his contract with Ottawa, thus rendering his lost year meaningless.
In the summer of 2001, Yashin was traded to the New York Islanders and joined a revamped Islander squad which had also acquired Michael Peca from the Buffalo Sabres. Yashin had an immediate impact on the Island as the team reached the playoffs for the first time since 1994. In 2002-03 Yashin played in 600th career NHL game and reached the 600-point plateau before injuries limited the talented forward to a mere 47 regular season games. Yashin was able to return for the 2004 post season, however, the Islanders were eliminated in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
During the NHL lockout in 2004-05, he competed in 10 games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Russian Super League, however when the NHL returned to action so too did Alexei Yashin. Prior to the start of the season, the Islanders lost some key players from their roster, and as a result Yashin was named team captain. The Islanders failed to make the playoffs that year for the first time since Yashin's arrival, and the pressure for the Russian to produce next season grew greater than ever. Yashin's 2006-07 season was predominantly injury plagued, however upon his healthy arrival back on the club he tallied 13 points in 16 games and led the Isles back into the playoff picture. After the Islanders lost out in the first round of the playoffs that year, the club decided to buy out the remainder of Yashin's contract in June 2007.
On July 20, 2007, Yashin signed a one-year contract with with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Russian Super League.
On the international stage, the former first rounder is a two-time member of Russia's Olympic team (1998 and 2002), a seven-time member of its World Championship team (1993, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2005), two-time member of its World Junior team (1992, 1993) and a two-time member of its World Cup team.