The actual document CBA has not even been finalized yet, and the first fight is already brewing between the NHL and NHLPA. The NHLPA is not happy with the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers decisions to send Scott Gomez and Wade Redden respectively home to wait for a buyout at the end of the season.
Is this decision smart business sense or is it a case of ownership looking for another loophole? While you might like the fact that you would get paid for doing nothing, the NHLPA contends that both players will be looking for work in July, and most teams will be that much more hesitant to sign a player in his mid-30s who hasn’t played hockey in over a full calendar year.
While it might be tough for the NHLPA to swallow, I think the might have to give in on this one. The players are getting paid, the salary counts against the cap and it seems to be above board. Its not really a loophole, its just paying the price for the contracts they have signed.
In hindsight, perhaps adding a clause that once the team commits to buying a player out at the end of the season, that player then has a choice on whether to continue to play or not, whether it be in the NHL or AHL. Then, they take the chance of getting injured on their own shoulder, and that wouldn’t affect the opportunity for buyout. However, should the player catch lightning in a bottle and actually live up to the contract and make it worthwhile to keep him(unlikely in these two cases), the team is still on the hook for the buyout.
I don’t know if something like this can be negotiated after the fact, but it might appease the player who just wants to play and showcase what he can still do for the other 20 teams who might have an interest in their abilities at a lower price tag. Then the player in question takes on no more risk than a pending UFA does when he takes to the ice every night.
Either way, it seems like there will never be a peaceful month off the ice. The transition period will see lots of issues like this popping up, and both sides will be forced to use the language of the CBA to their best advantage.