Every time I open the CBA, I want to slap a lawyer. With the U.S. Constitution, 55 delegates were able to come up with a fairly workable system of national government in just four pages and seven articles. But the NHL CBA took most of 2005 to hammer out and runs 50 articles, 35 exhibits and 454 pages. Plus, it doesn't even have pretty penmanship.
Since Jason Gregoire is exercising a provision outlined in one of those 454 pages -- going the Blake Wheeler route and opening up the possibility to sign with any NHL team -- I figured we can open that pain-in-the-rump document to see why he can do it, and what his options (including compensation) are.
Maybe next CBA, the NHL and NHLPA will make their lawyers sit down an extra day, with a graphic designer, to draw up a flowchart for the CBA. ("Where were you born? Go here. What is your birthday? Go here. Have you played college? How long? Go here." etc.) But I doubt it.
Let's start from the top. Or, the middle.
Exclusive Signing Rights
What makes an unsigned player a property of his drafting team?
8.6 Reserve List-Exclusive Rights.
(a) Commencing with the 2005 Entry Draft, a Player selected by a Club in the Entry Draft shall be registered on the Reserve List of the selecting Club as an "Unsigned Draft Choice."
That's great! So we just draft a guy, and he's our until we sign him, right? Not quite. There are time limits.
Most know that teams generally have two years after the draft to sign draftees from major juniors. For college players drafted as freshmen, it's generally four years, but [emphasis mine]:
(c) College Players.
(i) If a Player drafted at age 18 or 19 is a bona fide college student at the time of his selection in the Entry Draft, or becomes a bona fide college student prior to the first June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft, and remains a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain the exclusive right of negotiation for his services through and including the August 15 following the graduation of his college class. The Club need not make a Bona Fide Offer to such Player to retain such rights.
(ii) If a Player drafted at age 18 or 19 is a bona fide college student at the time of his selection in the Entry Draft, or becomes a bona fide college student prior to the first June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft, and does not remain a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain exclusive rights for the negotiation of his services until the fourth June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft. The Club need not make a Bona Fide Offer to such Player to retain such rights.
(iv) If a Player drafted at age 18 or 19, who had received a Bona Fide Offer in accordance with Section 8.6(a)(ii) above, becomes a bona fide college student prior to the second June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft and does not remain a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain exclusive rights for the negotiation of his services until the fourth June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft.
If you are a good boy and get your degree, your drafting team has you until Aug. 15 of that graduating summer. If you leave early, then June 1 of the fourth year following your draft becomes the big date.
But Gregoire's just completed his junior season at UND. Why does the above apply to him?
Because he was drafted in 2007. June 1, 2011 is the fourth June 1 since his draft day. When the Isles drafted him, he was playing in U.S. juniors (USHL) and continued to do so before entering college -- erm, "becoming a bona fide college student."
What about this "30 days" business?
I keep seeing reports that the Islanders have 30 days after notification to sign Gregoire. If this is true, I cannot find it in the CBA. But the important date outlined in the CBA is June 1. According to those same reports, Gregoire has formally withdrawn from UND, and thus he "does not remain a bona fide college student" and therefore this June 1 is when the Islanders no longer retain exclusive negotiating rights.
Gregoire's Potential Compensation
Great. So Gregoire's gone. The Maple Leafs, who buy up all the college and Euro free agents, will sign him to a $5 million deal or something. Right?
No. Just because Gregoire can shop his services on June 1 -- and I'm positive, absolutely certain, that in no way would his
agent legal counsel agent family advisor have any inkling of what other NHL teams are interested -- doesn't mean he can go out and make a mint.
Well, a "mint" relative to NHL standards, anyway.
See, Gregoire is still 22 years old. That means he's still subject to the Entry Level System.
The Entry Level System. Time to return to the CBA...
The LegislatureEntry Level Compensation
(b) Subject to subsection (c) below, the period covered by the SPC for every Rookie, and the number of years that such Player will be in the Entry Level System and subject to the compensation limits set out in this Article, shall be as indicated on the chart immediately below, and during such period, the Player shall be deemed to be a "Group 1 Player":
First SPC Signing Age Period Covered by First SPC, Years in Entry Level System
18-21 3 years
22-23 2 years
24 1 year
25 and older No required number of years, not in the Entry Level System
When Gregoire signs a contract (SPC, or Standard Player Contract) this summer, he'll still be 22. That means he'll be in the Entry Level System for two years. So look for a two-year deal.
But I thought he was a free agent?
(d) Draft-related Unrestricted Free Agents will be subject to the maximum annual aggregate compensation limits set forth in this Section 9.3 applicable in the Entry Draft year immediately preceding the date on which the Player signs his Entry Level SPC. For example, a Draft-related Unrestricted Free Agent Player signed after the date of the 2005 Entry Draft and prior to the 2006 Entry Draft will be subject to the maximum annual aggregate compensation for Players drafted in the 2005 Entry Draft (i.e., $850,000). Such a Player will be subject to all of the other terms and provisions of this Article 9, including without limitation, the terms of Exhibit 5 and the maximum annual Signing Bonus for a Draft-related Unrestricted Free Agent will be limited to 10% of the Player's compensation in any League Year.
What about the money?
In terms of compensation, Gregoire is just like any other rookie in the Entry Level System. If he signs in June, his maximum salary will be $900,000 at the NHL level.
Yeah, but he can demand a one-way deal, right?
9.4 Minor League Compensation.
Each SPC entered into with a Rookie in the Entry Level System shall automatically be deemed to be a "two way" SPC with a minor league salary equal to the Paragraph 1 Minor League Salary set forth in such SPC or, if no minor league salary is set forth, the greater of (i) $35,000 (Native Currency) and (ii) the minimum minor league salary provided for Players in the Minors...
So he can wiggle for maximum AHL salary as set forth here ($70,000 for 2011-12), and he can wiggle for a higher NHL salary (again, $900,000 max), and he can wiggle for ELC bonuses he is unlikely to achieve, but in the end he's still treated like a draftee and his compensation will be capped on a two-way deal.
Okay. But if he signs elsewhere, the Isles get something back, right?
No. Gregoire was drafted in the third round:
8.3 Compensatory Draft Selections
In the event a Club loses its draft rights to an Unsigned Draft Choice drafted in the first round of the Entry Draft (except as a result of failing to tender a required Bona Fide Offer (as defined below)), who is again eligible for the Entry Draft or becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent, a Compensatory Draft Selection shall automatically be granted to that Club...
He was a nice prospect, so hopefully something works out with the Isles. I like depth.
If not though, hopefully this helps. Hopefully it's not too confusing. (Ha.) Hopefully it's not incorrect or subject to unpublished amendments and understandings.
But you never know with the stupid #$% CBA.