Keenan Gets $100,000 Fine, 60-Day Ban; Nedved a Ranger
The Mike Keenan dispute was resolved Sunday night in a complicated settlement announced by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Keenan, who coached the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup title in 54 years before bolting for the St. Louis Blues, was suspended for 60 days and fined $100,000. The Blues and Detroit Red Wings were fined, and the Rangers and Blues completed a trade approved by Bettman.
In a decision announced unexpectedly Sunday night after an eight-hour meeting at league offices, Bettman made the following rulings:
--Keenan is suspended without pay for 60 days and fined $100,000. He can assume his duties as coach and general manager of the Blues on Sept. 24.
--The Blues agreed to trade center Petr Nedved to the Rangers for forward Esa Tikkanen and defenseman Doug Lidster.
--The Blues were fined $250,000 for negotiating with and signing Keenan.
--The Rangers agreed to pay Keenan his $608,000 playoff bonus, and Keenan will repay the Rangers $400,000, representing four-fifths of the signing bonus he received when hired after the 1992-93 season.
--The Red Wings were fined $25,000 for negotiating with Keenan, and New York was fined the same amount for filing a lawsuit against Keenan and his attorney. The Rangers also agreed to drop the suit.
Keenan, who had four years left on a five-year contract to coach the Rangers, declared himself a free agent on July 15 when the team was one day late with a bonus payment. He signed with the Blues two days later.
The Rangers filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York last Tuesday, calling Keenan a “faithless employee.” The Rangers asked that the final four years of the contract be upheld and sought a temporary injunction preventing Keenan from signing with another team.
Bettman said Sunday: “The member clubs of the NHL and their employees may not engage in a kind of frontier justice, where every question of a contract’s validity becomes an invitation to self-help in the form of unilateral declarations of free agency and the immediate entering into inconsistent contractual obligations.”
A decision on the matter hadn’t been expected before today, when the parties involved were to meet at Bettman’s office for a hearing. But when New York and St. Louis proposed a trade to settle the dispute, Bettman summoned all sides to his office for Sunday’s hearing.
The Rangers reserved comment until today. A Red Wing spokesman said: “They announced that now?” And a Blues spokeswoman said: “At this point, I haven’t even talked to our management, who are in New York for the hearing.”
The fines for Keenan and the Blues are the maximum allowed under league by-laws. Despite the heavy penalties, the Blues will have the coach and general manager of their choice when the season opens on Oct. 1.
The Rangers, meanwhile, will get one of the best centers in the NHL in Nedved, who is from the Czech Republic. He played for Canada in this year’s Winter Olympics, then signed with the Blues as a free agent after three years with Vancouver.
Nedved has 69 goals and 75 assists in his career, but had only six goals and 14 assists last season in 19 games with St. Louis.
Tikkanen played nine seasons in Edmonton and helped the Oilers win four Stanley Cups before being traded to the Rangers for Doug Weight in March 1993. Tikkanen won his fifth Stanley Cup with New York last season, finishing with 22 goals and 54 points.
Lidster was acquired from the Canucks, with whom he played for 10 seasons, to complete the trade for goalie John Vanbiesbrouck. He won his only Stanley Cup ring by beating his former team in June.