TORONTO (AP) _ The NHL Players' Association is taking a role in the protracted contract dispute between Alexei Yashin and the Ottawa Senators.

``Now, as the dispute evolves, it appears as though we will be involved in the application of the collective bargaining agreement,'' union chief Bob Goodenow told the Toronto Sun on Thursday.

Yashin, who led the Senators last season with 94 points, held out for a new contract before training camp and earlier this month was suspended for this season.

Yashin believes he'll be a restricted free agent next summer. The Senators say he will owe them a season at his current salary of $3.6 million.

``To have said anything to date would have been premature, because no one knew whether there was going to be a new contract or whether the player was going to play,'' Goodenow said. ``The dynamics of these situations change day by day.

``Now that the situation appears to be going toward an interpretation of the CBA, absolutely we are involved and absolutely we will be involved in defending the language in the agreement.''