Disclaimer: half-baked thoughts to follow. I'm really not sure what I think about this, nor do I know if any other team's have sent junior-eligible players to the AHL on conditioning loans. Maybe you'll tell me this happens all the time. First I've heard of it.
- CBA Article 13.8 allows a team to send a player on the active roster to the AHL for "conditioning purposes" for up to two weeks. This is, per Rich Hammond, what the Kings have just invoked re Brayden Schenn's assignment to Manchester of the AHL.
- The NHL and the CHL have an agreement (the so-called 1995 agreement) which is not available to the public. We don't know exactly what's in the agreement, but the gist of it is supposed to be (as it's frequently paraphrased), "players with junior eligibility not playing in the NHL must be returned to the CHL."
- The NHL/CHL agreement, whatever it really says, is grandfathered in by the NHL 2005 CBA.
- 13.8 specifically describes the NHL commissioner's authority to investigate the circumstances of a player's conditioning loan, to determine whether the loan is an attempt to evade "any provision" of the CBA.
- "9.1(iv): The return dates to Major Juniors (as established by Agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League, dated May 2, 1995 [...] are hereby confirmed and affirmed [...] (e.g., return dates, prohibition on sending underage players to minors)." Not really grammatical (shocking, I know), but it's arguable that the CBA considers violating the CHL agreement a circumvention.
- The big hiccup is that we don't know what's in the CHL agreement. But if the often-repeated paraphrase is accurate, it's pretty clear that a conditioning loan to the AHL is not what the CHL would mean by "playing in the NHL."
- Does the NHL care really, if the CHL gets upset? I have no idea. But:
- The nine-game limit is not, as far as I know, a part of the NHL/CHL agreement. The nine-game limit is found in CBA Article 9(d)(i). Players can be returned to junior at any time, even after the nine game limit is reached; but (per 9(d)(i)) at game 10 the player's contract kicks in. When and how a player gets paid is kinda sorta (entirely) a CBA issue.
- I think that logic still folds back in on (or refers back to) the CHL agreement.
- I have to assume the Kings asked the league and/or the union in advance if this move would be okay. Otherwise, it seems a little dicey; mitigated perhaps by the fact that the transgression may be only of the secret CHL agreement, which we can't see. But still...
[UPDATE: turns out, according to Rich Hammond, Schenn has not yet been assigned because the Kings are in conversation with the league about the particulars, i.e. "how can we do this so it's allowed by the CBA?" Like I said...]