Thursday, July 10, 2008

Leafs CBA Mess

One of my complaints about this CBA is that it is needlessly complex. It removes understanding of many of the moves in the game from the fan due to its complexity. Here is a case in point.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been attempting to sign defenceman Jonas Frogren from Farjestads BK Karlstad of the Swedish Elite League. He is a stay at home defenceman who played very well in the World Hockey Championships. By the Leafs understanding, Frogren, who will be 28 by next season, could be signed to a standard NHL contract. In general, players 28 and older do not require entry level contracts when they join the NHL. They negotiated and signed him to a contract. Frogren was under contract to his Swedish team, but he could buyout his contract (basically paying back a signing bonus) if he chose to leave. It was negotiated that Frogren would pay back the bonus himself (since NHL teams are forbidden by Gary Bettman to pay transfer fees to European teams with the current lack of a transfer agreement). The Leafs would then pay Frogren his planned salary plus the buyout as his 2008/09 NHL salary.

The snag is that Frogren was drafted in 1998 by the Calgary Flames, but never given a contract offer. Under the pre-lockout CBA, such a player was classified as "defected" by the NHL if he later came to the NHL with a team other than his drafting team (which no longer held his rights). This classification is a poor name because it doesn't actually have anything to do with a player defecting. It was agreed, in negotiating the expired IIHF player transfer agreement that it would be best to treat such cases the same way defecting players are treated. This language was left in the current CBA, probably without considering consequences. Defecting players, regardless of age, were to be required to sign entry level contracts.

Thus, the NHL rejected Frogren's contract because he is a "defecting" player. He would be eligible to sign a standard contract except that he had been drafted in 1998 (which seems like a largely irrelevant fact). The problem with his signing an entry level deal is that it may not cover the buyout money that has already been spent.

As a result, we get a legal mess. The contract of a player is rejected because of a remnant of an expired agreement that is in the CBA. It has Frogren treated differently than most other people in his position and is thus unfair to him. I am pretty certain Frogren will sign with Toronto, but I am not sure how this will be worked out. It has potential to force so re-working of the CBA and how European players are treated.

Here is TSN's story on the Frogren attempted signing.

The CBA could be re-opened for cleanup of issues like this after this upcoming season, yes? Maybe they'll put this on the list of stuff to scrub.
By the way on April 21, 2010, Frögren returned to Färjestads BK signing a four-year contract
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