Thursday, March 29, 2007

McKenzie: NHLPA Still Active Day-to-Day

The NHLPA is currently in trouble. Since Ted Saskin has been suspended as leader there is a lack of anyone running the ship. Nevertheless, I am surprised to find out that they are still in good enough shape to file an appeal for a player on a minor issue, which for the most part doesn't affect anyone except the single player.

The Los Angeles Kings have signed Joe Piskula from the University of Wisconsin. They signed him to an entry-level contract. The rules of entry-level contracts are complex and explained in detail in the current NHL CBA. Among the rules are complex bonus schedules for entry-level players. The Kings have given him bonuses for games played this season ($25,000 for 1 game, $25,000 more for 3 games and $25,000 more for 5 games) which are in addition to the normal bonus schedule (likely he won't meet any of these bonuses since he joined the NHL so late in the season). Piskula has already played 3 games and will likely have no problem reaching five games played this year. The NHL has balked saying that this is effectively a signing bonus and shouldn't be allowed under the CBA. But there is an appeal underway which according to Bob McKenzie was filed by the NHLPA (and not for example the LA Kings). The NHLPA filed a grievance and the contract will stand until the case can be heard by an arbitrator.

The contract does not violate any of the salary caps in place in the NHL - either on how much an entry level player can be paid without the bonus schedules or the team salary cap. It doesn't even increase the total payroll of the NHL - that is a fixed percentage of revenues regardless of what is in the player contracts.

The shocking thing is that the NHLPA is in any shape to file a grievance or do any of its other day-to-day activities. Filing a grievance such as this is about the most it managed to do for the players when Ted Saskin was firmly in charge. It can still be done with nobody firmly in charge (Ian Penny and Stu Grimson are as close as anyone comes to leading it today). This is the first piece of evidence that Ian Penny might be a competent leader to take over after Ted Saskin. He might even do something to help the players.

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