TAMPA – In an effort to streamline its compensation system when executives move from one team to another, the NHL has created an unwieldy mess of a gong show. Instead of compensating teams for losing people in their organizations in whom they’ve invested considerable resources, the league’s new rule is giving compensation to teams that have fired coaches and GMs and want nothing to do with them.
And it’s wrong. I’ve personally talked to a couple of GMs who pushed for the compensation rules to be changed and they said they wanted only to be compensated for employees they lost who were still in their organizations. But when the Buffalo Sabres hired Dan Bylsma as their coach, they were forced to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a third-round pick, only because Bylsma was still under contract to Pittsburgh. Forget that he had virtually no contact with them or nothing to do with them for a year. The Edmonton Oilers were reportedly shocked they had to give up a second-rounder to the Bruins for fired GM Peter Chiarelli, the pick being a second-rounder because “in-season” for GMs includes up until the draft.
You want to poach talent from another team, the way the New Jersey Devils did when they hired John Hynes away from Pittsburgh to be their head coach? Great idea to have a compensation system in place. But for a guy who has already been shown the door and has virtually nothing to do with the team other than the fact that he’s still under contract? That’s a violation of the spirit of the rule as it was conceived by the GMs.
Not surprisingly, the NHL doesn’t see it that way.
“The fact of the matter is, clubs still have the right to deny permission to employees to talk to any teams,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “If they have to grant permission in the first place, they should be entitled to compensation.”
There will be no change to the policy this year, but both Daly and commissioner Gary Bettman left the option open to change it in the future. “We put in effect the new policy for compensation Jan. 1 and we’ll let it run a full year before we consider doing anything,” Bettman said. “At that time, we’ll either clarify, modify or eliminate it.”
Several other interesting nuggets that came from the surprisingly non-confrontational Bettman state-of-the-league address, with a cameo appearance from deputy commissioner Daly:
* Bettman confidently stated that “our franchises have never been stronger, our owners never better.” He said any rumors of instability and/or trouble in either Arizona or Florida are unfounded.
* Daly said the league is confident it can strike a deal with the KHL similar to the transfer agreement it has with all the other European hockey federations. Until now, the two leagues have agreed not to poach each other’s players who are under contract, but Daly said the KHL might be brought under the umbrella of the other European countries in the International Ice Hockey Federation.
“There’s a sense they may be open to having a more friendly transfer arrangement than we currently have,” Daly said. “That’s what they indicated (at the recent World Championship) in Prague.” That would mean the league would be able to sign KHL players under contract during certain windows, as it can with other European federations. “The nature of our player transfer agreements with all the other countries is players under European contracts can come to the NHL and does not allow the reciprocal,” Daly said. “But that’s what we’re paying money for. We pay development fees to other European nations for players they lose, both players under contract and players not under contract, and we’ve made that offer to the KHL.”
* Reacting to the announcement by Las Vegas billionaire Bill Foley that he has collected 11,500 deposits of between $100 and $900 on season tickets and a further 735 luxury suites, Bettman said: “Assuming that number is accurate, and there’s no reason to doubt that, it looks like his drive has had some degree of success, to say the least.”
* Bettman reiterated that next season’s salary cap will be somewhere in the $70 million to $71 million range.
* With the domestic abuse trial of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov set for next month, Daly said the league had given Voynov the option of separating the NHL’s investigative process from the legal process and he turned it down. Had the league investigated and found no wrongdoing, Voynov could have been playing this season. “The length of his suspension really is as much self-determined as it is NHL determined,” Daly said.