Detroit GM Ken Holland may have bested the Blackhawks again – this time during the off season.
Though details are scarce at this time, the Toronto Sun is reporting the Blackhawks are under investigation by the NHL for “circumventing” the terms of the current CBA by signing Marian Hossa to a 12-year deal under which Hossa will receive less than $1 million on average for the final four years – a tool Holland arguably placed into the GM toolbox with the Zetterberg and Franzen deals. The NHL may apparently charge the Hawks with entering into an oral agreement, if not an informal one, with Hossa at the time the contract was signed that would see the new Hawk signee retire sometime after the seventh year of the deal when his annual take declines precipitously. In that instance, Hossa’s retirement would save the Hawks – if the current CBA were in effect at the time of the retirement – a $5 million cap hit during the deal’s remaining years.
For completeness, the CBA does by its terms prohibit such misconduct. Article 26, subsection 26.3 of the agreement prohibits clubs from, “directly or indirectly … enter(ing) into any agreements, promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind, whether express, implied, oral or written, including without limitation any (Standard Player Contract) … if … [it] is intended to or has the effect of defeating or Circumventing the provisions of this Agreement or the intention of the parties as reflected by the provisions of this Agreement, including … provisions with respect to … Team Payroll Range …”
Though it’s almost impossible to tell what, if any, action the NHL will ultimately take with respect to this situation – there is, after all, no precedent here – it’s important to note that the “circumvention” described above does not include an intent element; that is, a club can be penalized under the terms of the CBA for actions merely “(having) the effect of defeating … the provisions of the” CBA. If the NHL decides to take a step closer to penalizing the Hawks, that will make its job much easier.
And, while other teams – most notably, the rival Wings – have entered into similar contracts with players, arguably none have involved such a strong likelihood of the player’s retirement during the latter portions of the respective agreements.
Finally, some may be wondering – our commenter Coach included – whether this could have been the underlying reason for Tallon’s dismissal. And, while I certainly do not know the answer to that question, it could finally bring some level of explanation for the move and, more importantly, the reason for the way it was handled. Remember, during that time, we found it difficult to buy what little explanation we received from Hawks’ management as to why the decision was made, but keeping quiet about this particular subject is, at the least, understandable – and yet another example of why it’s so difficult to criticize organizations from the outside.
Stay tuned, folks. At the least, a look at the Hawks’ best arguments against possible NHL allegations will be forthcoming later today or tonight.
Suddenly, a review of Brent Sopel’s glorious ’08-’09 campaign is much less interesting…