What's Next for the Kings and Slava Voynov?
Yesterday, Slava Voynov pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of corporal injury to a spouse. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years of probation. In the eyes of immigration law, this means that Voynov has now been officially convicted of a crime. His "No Contest" plea, despite not being an outright admission of guilt, does little to persuade an immigration court's future decision regarding his citizenship in the United States. With that said, Voynov's deportation status is still uncertain and is in the hands of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The uncertainty of Voynov's future leaves us with four possible scenarios.
1. He is deported from the United States.
If Voynov is indeed deported by the immigration court, then he will obviously no longer be able to play in the NHL. Thus, it is likely that his contract would be terminated. Immigration laws regarding deportation are murky at best, but there is history for Voynov's specific crime being a "crime of moral turpitude" that resulted in the deportation of an immigrant. However, there are many circumstances in which Voynov could avoid deportation, and I am not a lawyer, so I will not speculate any further on this subject. It's a possibility.
2. He is allowed to remain in the United States, but his ability to travel is made more difficult.
This would obviously make his situation in the NHL tenuous at best, as traveling between the US and Canada is somewhat necessary in order to play. Canada's laws for letting people with a criminal history into their country are notoriously strict, and there are few ways to get around them.
3. Gary Bettman expels him from the league.
Regardless of the above two outcomes, Gary Bettman has the power to remove Voynov from the league. According to Section 18-A.2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and NHLPA, the commissioner has the power to impose discipline on a player for any off-ice conduct, including expelling or suspending the player. Furthermore, the commissioner can outright revoke a standard player's contract should they decide that the player's actions are detrimental to the league.
4. Bettman reinstates Slava Voynov.
It's impossible to say what will happen next with any certainty, but this is the possibility that makes me most anxious. If, in fact, the immigration court decides nothing further should happen to Voynov, and Gary Bettman decides to reinstate Voynov within the league, then Dean Lombardi shoulders the responsibility of Voynov's future.
We know that Lombardi has fostered an extremely insular culture within his front office that extends on down to his players. He simply does not show as much regard to public reception as other general managers might (e.g., keeping Mike Richards after 2014 and then terminating his contract after 2015). He has set a precedent for both controversial moves and chances at redemption. This sets the table for him to make an uncomfortable decision when it comes to Voynov.
However, in the aftermath of the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice incident, harboring perpetrators of domestic violence has (rightly, in my opinion) become taboo. Thus, Dean Lombardi may have the decision made for him: he may have to remove Slava Voynov from his own roster.
If this becomes the case, then there are three options: terminate his contract, let him play, or trade him. From what we have seen of Marta Varlamova's statements, she is still financially dependent on Voynov and plans to remain with him. Thus, no matter our feelings for Voynov, it is of the utmost importance that her interests come first. In this case, it may even be best that Voynov remains under contract so that she can continue to receive support.
There is also an extremely unlikely-to-be-available fourth option: if the Los Angeles Kings take multiple players to arbitration, they will have an opportunity to buy out the remainder of Voynov's contract. However, it's unlikely that any of the Kings' restricted free agents make it to arbitration. I suggest buying him out because this would also provide financial support to Marta Varlamova, but it is extraordinarily unlikely to be an available option until next June, should Voynov remains with the team that long.
This is an unfortunate situation, but it is not an uncommon one. On average, almost 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Anger toward Voynov and other abusers is justified. However, you have the power to do more than that and affect real change. A group known as HockeyFightsDV encourages fans to pledge donations to domestic violence organizations of their choice based on how their favorite players perform (e.g., donating a dollar to Good Shepherd Shelter every time Anze Kopitar scores a goal). Thus, we encourage our readers to make a pledge and pour their frustration into an avenue that will help survivors like Marta Varlamova gain independence and safety.
For a list of possible local charities to donate to, check out the Hockey Fights Domestic Violence Tumblr.