Thursday, April 02, 2009

A layperson's look at Frogren and the CBA

Maybe the Leafs should just avoid players named Jonas.

The NHL has fined the Leafs $500,000 and a 4th round draft pick for signing Jonas Frogren to a contract that went over and above an entry level SPC.

To review, last summer, the Leafs signed Frogren to a creative contract that MLSE believed was in compliance with the CBA.

Based on my reading of the CBA, I'm pretty much guessing those sections are, Section 9.1 c:

a Player who at the time he was drafted was playing for a team outside North America or who meets the qualifications set forth in Article 8.4(a)(v) (a "European Player") who signs his first SPC at ages 25-27 shall be subject to the Entry Level System for one (1) year. A European Player who signs his first SPC at age 28 or older is not subject to the Entry Level System under any circumstances.
Section 8.4(a)(v):

a Player age 22 or older who has not been selected in a previous Entry Draft and shall be eligible to enter the League as an unrestricted Free Agent pursuant to Article 10.1 (d).
And section 10.1 (d):

Any player not eligible for claim in any future Entry Draft pursuant to this Agreement and not on a Club's Reserve List shall be an Unrestricted Free Agent. Further, any Player eligible for claim in the Entry Draft, but who was unclaimed, shall be an Unrestricted Free Agent subject to the provisions of Section 8.9(b).
(ii) Each Player referred to in subsection (d)(i) above shall, during the period of his Free Agency in accordance with Section 8.9(b), if applicable, be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with such Player, without penalty or restriction subject to the provisions of Article 9 of this Agreement, if applicable, and without being subject to any Right of First Refusal, Draft Choice Compensation or any other compensation or equalization obligation of any kind.
As Frogren was indeed a European player, playing outside the NHL, who was 28 years old, without a previous SPC, it could be argued that he was not restricted to the limits of an entry level SPC. That's the position that the Leafs, the NHLPA and Frogren's agent Don Meehan took (and which the Leafs and Meehan stated to the media last summer).

Unfortunately for the Leafs, the NHL disagreed. From what I've been able to gather, the league argued that Frogren was to be considered a "defected player"

Under section 10.2 b of the CBA:
Definition of "Defected Player." For purposes of this Agreement, "Defected Player" means any Player not unconditionally released:
(A) who, having had an SPC with a Club, the provisions of which, including the option clauses in a 1995 SPC, have not been completely fulfilled, contracts for a period including any part of the unfulfilled portion of his SPC, with a club in a league not affiliated with the NHL or with any such league (both of which are hereinafter referred to as an "unaffiliated club") or with any other professional 32 hockey club to the exclusion of the said Club or its assignee; or
(B) who, never having been under contract to any Club, but as to who the NHL negotiation rights now or at any time hereafter shall reside in any Club, has contracted or shall contract with such an unaffiliated club.
I'm presuming that the NHL argued that Frogren had not fulfilled his contract with an unaffiliated club (in this case Färjestads) in an unaffiliated league (the SEL).

Unfortunately for Toronto, the NHL disagreed and the NHL won.

I think it's grossly unfair and incredibly simple to paint this situation as any type of incompetence on the part of the Leafs or Cliff Fletcher.

The Leafs, their lawyers, the NHLPA and Don Meehan all agreed and argued that given his age, draft status, and heritage Frogren was an unrestricted free agent who was not limited to an entry level deal.

Despite the findings and the punitive measures (the loss of the 4th round pick sort of stings, but really, what's $500K to MLSE?) I hope the Leafs continue in their efforts to be creative and to seek out alternative means of getting more draft picks and more talent into the organization.

**UPDATE**
This post attempts to explain the how, but I didn't touch on the why.

It should be noted that Frogren used the bonus money in his contract with the Leafs to buy-out his contract with Färjestads. Had Frogren not had contractual obligation to the SEL I'm presuming the NHL would not have sought sanctions against the Leafs.

Again, this is all just guess work on my part - if anyone finds some answers to this in the media, please put a link in the comments.

7 comments:

  1. It would be amazing if some reporter would do this kind of digging and explaining.

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  2. Oh, PPP, you're such a dreamer.

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  3. The part I don't understand is how the deal was signed in the first place without NHL approval.

    If the NHL didn't believe the contract was within the rules, why did they allow it? Isn't there some sort of league approval with any new contract? Why are we only now getting a resolution, almost a year later?

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  4. DGB - I think the contract was allowed to stand because the NHLPA filed a grievance. This is just a guess on my part, I presume it's like a player being allowed to play while they appeal a suspension.

    It is startling that it took the league 9 months to reach a ruling on this. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the verdict was reached some time ago and the Leafs, NHLPA and NHL held backroom discussions to negotiate a final settlement - e.g. Leafs have time to pick-up an additional 4th round pick, and agree to pay a fine in return for issuing a statement taking full blame and agreeing not to comment further.

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  5. Paul Steckley6:02 p.m.

    I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that at least one beat writer has now reported that Burke's deadline deal with Tampa was meaningless, as the 4th we picked up is now forfeited. That statement, of course, completely ignores the fact that if we didn't have a 4th this year to forfeit, the NHL would have simply taken another draft pick. I guess intelligent reporting on the Leafs is something I simply should not expect from any of the "professionals".

    Given the wording in the sections of the CBA, that Mike has done a nice job in bringing to the forefront for the rest of us not willing to plow through the pages of banality that form the CBA (when do you get the time to read that, Mike, and, more importantly, why?), what's clear is the lack of clarity of the situation last summer. It was quite reasonable to take the position the Leafs took. At the time, my money would have been on their argument being successful. Good for Fletcher for trying to do something imaginative to make the Leafs a better team.

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  6. (when do you get the time to read that, Mike, and, more importantly, why?)

    I hear the CBA is an excellent insomnia cure. Or perhaps, mf37 ultimately aspires to be a policy summarizer for the government? Apparently, it is good pay...

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  7. Is it possibly that the Leafs knew they were going to have to give up a 4th round pick and therefore made the Tampa Bay deal in order not to further weaken their June draft.

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