But That's Not What He Said

There's a fascinating interview on NHL.com with Bill Daly, which updates the on-going investigations. It's worth reading on its own (follow the link inside the ProHockeyTalk article). I'm going to unpack what Daly said this evening when everyone is asleep, but I just wanted to quickly address PHT's interpretation of Daly's comments, which I believe are completely wrong.

Daly: NHL contract investigations continue, punishments may not be as harsh - ProHockeyTalk - Hockey - NBC Sports
If you've been wondering about whether or not the NHL is serious in their investigation of other player's contracts in the wake of nullifying Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102 million contract with New Jersey, deputy commissioner Bill Daly will have you know that they're still investigating. Marian Hossa, Chris Pronger, Roberto Luongo and Marc Savard are all having their contracts looked at a little closer, but if you're thinking the league will just blow up those deals, you might want to slow down a little bit before running with that conspiracy theory.

[from the NHL.com article] "If there was a determination that there was circumvention there are a whole host of alternatives in terms of how we approach it and a whole host of remedies in terms of what can be ordered," Daly told NHL.com. "De-registration of the contract is one potential remedy, but it's not the only one. I don't want to get into hypotheticals. The investigations aren't complete, and we haven't made any determinations as to how we proceed with respect to those."

[...]

"We're at a different stage now that the contracts have been registered so there is a different procedure that we would have to employ if we ever wanted to do anything with these contracts, and I don't want to create the perception or expectation that we are," Daly said. "It's just that these contracts continue to be under investigation."

So if you're thinking the NHL will come swinging through Chicago, Vancouver, Philadelphia and Boston with the hammer smashing everything up, you've probably just got a wild imagination.

I do have a wild imagination. But I can also read, and you entirely missed the point of what Daly said. He did not say, for example, "if it turns out there is a circumvention, the contract will be allowed to stand." It won't. (I'll get to the relevant CBA quote in a second.) The part I put in bold, above, about de-registration being "one potential remedy," does not mean that the league has the discretion not to void a contract that is deemed by the arbitrator to be a circumvention.

The second bolded bit, "the different procedure," refers to Article 26, which outlines how an investigation works, and Article 11, which outlines what happens when a contract is "de-registered." 

To paraphrase the relevant passage, what happens is, if the investigation determines that there is a circumvention, there is a sit-down with the NHLPA to see if a resolution can be worked out. If not, we go to arbitration. And this is what occurs:

[11.6(b)(iii)(B)(x)]: If the Arbitrator sustains the League's de-registration, then the Arbitrator shall order that immediately upon the League's and Club's receipt of the Arbitrator's decision, the de-registered SPC will be deemed null and void, and the Player shall not thereafter be entitled to any of the rights or benefits provided for under the de-registered SPC, and the Player's Free Agency and/or contractual status shall revert to the status he held prior to signing his SPC, provided that the Player shall be entitled to be paid his Paragraph 1 Salary and Bonuses (other than Signing, Roster and Reporting Bonuses, if any) earned during the period, if any, such Player played for the Club pursuant to such SPC. If the Arbitrator determines that the Club was responsible for the Circumvention and the Player was not, the Player shall be free to sign with another Club without regard to any signing deadlines and shall be made whole by the Circumventing Club for any damages suffered by the Player as a result of the Circumvention.

Other penalties, as Daly said, may apply, at the league's discretion. But if there's an arbitration, and the arbitrator agrees with the league that a cicumvention has occurred, then the arbitrator SHALL order that the contract be deemed null and void.

Back to the Pro Hockey Talk post:

That's not to say that these teams won't have problems should the league declare shenanigans on those contracts, it's just that their efforts to do something about them are hindered by the fact that they've already registered those contracts.

They're not hindered. Maybe politically. But the process does in fact allow the league to, as you say, blow the contracts out of the water. In fact, if they are ruled circumventions, they have to be blown out of the water. There is no provision for determining that a contract is a circumvention AND YET will be allowed to stand.

Back to Pro Hockey Talk:

Daly not going into specifics about what the league could do if they find those contracts are similarly cap-deflating is a bit disappointing as I'm sure fans and teams alike would be curious as to what the process would be to make adjustments to make the contracts fit their own parameters.

Look. Here's the thing. With a de-registered contract, there's only one instance in which the contract can be "adjusted to fit" as a result. And that's specifically if no circumvention is alleged or found.

11.6(b)(ii) If an SPC is challenged because it does not comply with the Maximum Player Salary and said challenge does not involve, and it is not, a Circumvention [...] (A) [...] the dispute shall be referred to the Arbitrator who shall reform the SPC so as to conform it to the requirements of this Agreement.

The Arbitrator himself reworks the contract if it's an issue of maximum player salary. But only if no circumvention is alleged. In all of these investigations, circumvention is alleged. So there is no reworking. If the league concludes that there is circumvention, there is no reworking. As with Kovalchuk, there is only, void or don't void.

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