NHL teams sign and shuffle players ahead of lockout deadline
This wasn’t like the first day of free agency — not by a long shot — but the waning hours before the expected NHL lockout had that overly caffeinated, manic vibe.
For instance, before lunch on the West Coast, NHL teams came to contract agreements with five players worth $83.5 million, the most lucrative contract going to Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, a five-year deal worth $29.5 million.
Clearly, the optics of a frantic Friday were confusing. Message to (some) players: We love you. Here’s a lot of money. Close the door behind you on Saturday.
There had to be a finishing touch to the odd set of circumstances. And it came later in the afternoon when Coyotes captain Shane Doan decided to stay in Phoenix, agreeing to a four-year, $21.2-million contract, which included a $2-million bonus.
That would be the same franchise in limbo and owned by the NHL since 2009.
Overall, capgeek.com put the dollar figure of contracts handed out on Friday at $106.25 million. The mad scramble around the league was to tie up deals before possible and widely expected changes to the collective bargaining agreement. The old one expires Saturday night and the league has said it will lock out players if there is not a new one in place.
The NHL Players’ Assn. lost Round 1 of its labor challenge in Quebec, where the union was aiming to prevent the NHL from locking out players in that province. In Quebec, employers can’t lock out employees who are not members of a certified union, and the NHLPA is not certified by the Quebec labor board. The players didn’t get the interim decision they had been seeking, but the substance of the case has yet to be decided.
With the Doan deal, the NHL appeared to be busier as a team owner than it did as a league negotiating labor peace. Although there is almost always some form of dialogue behind the scenes, no new formal sessions between the NHL and the NHLPA had been scheduled.
This didn’t mean the groups weren’t busy spinning. This would be the second lockout in eight years and the third under the tenure of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Since the sides appeared before the cameras in separate news conferences Thursday, they’ve made steady pitches via Canadian television and radio.
Last-minute contracts weren’t the only things keeping front-office executives busy. Teams around the league were active in sending eligible players to various minor-league affiliates so that they will be able to play during the expected lockout.
The Kings sent 15 players to their American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H., including forwards Andrei Loktionov and Jordan Nolan. That did not include defenseman Slava Voynov, and a front-office official said the team was still reviewing his situation.
Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi had expressed some concern last week about defensemen Thomas Hickey, Andrew Campbell and Jake Muzzin, who would not be able to go to Manchester because they would have to clear waivers. The Kings, naturally, would not want to take that chance.
“They’re kind of caught in no-man’s land,” Lombardi said to The Times.
The Ducks also put together their minor-league assignments, sending 16 players to their AHL affiliate in Norfolk. Two players, goalie Jeff Deslauriers and center Dan Sexton, cleared waivers Friday, and Anaheim also put Jordan Hendry on waivers, and he will either clear or be claimed Saturday.
The Kings put three players on waivers on Friday: defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk and forwards Stefan Legein and David Meckler.
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