The National Hockey League doesn’t currently have plans to investigate whether the Ottawa Senators purposely circumvented the salary cap with Daniel Alfredsson’s previous contract, but it didn’t rule out taking another look in the future “as further events unfold.
“I would say that if negotiations went down precisely as Daniel described (them), that would be a concern,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email to the Citizen Thursday. “We haven’t independently verified that, and at this point we don’t intend to.”
At a press conference in Ottawa Thursday, Alfredsson revealed he and the Senators structured his last contract under the mutual assumption that he would retire before playing the last year for $1 million. That brought the average annual value of the deal down to $4.816 million from the $6.166 million it would have otherwise been.
Although the Senators now spend well below the NHL’s current limit ($64.3 million) on player salaries, they were up against it during the 2009-10 season — the first year of the deal.
“When I did my last contract for four years ending in the (2012-13) season, I was asked to help the team manage the salary cap by adding on a extra year to my contract. I agreed. Each side fully expected I would retire and not play the 2012-13 season,” he said.
“However, after the 2012 season, I told the Sens I wanted to play another season. I also asked to look at a possible extension this upcoming season at a fair amount to balance out the two years for both of us. They agreed.
“Sadly, the contract negotiations went nowhere, but I played out the season as I had promised and I believe this past season, in my view, was a very special one.”
The collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the players’ union contains severe penalties if either a team or player are found to have made side arrangements that would circumvent the salary cap.
Penalties can include fines of up to $5 million against a club, which can also be directed to forfeit draft picks (number, placement and year are determined by the commissioner).
A player can be fined the lesser of $1 million or 25 per cent of the player’s salary, but no less than $250,000, for entering into any such agreement.
The practice of heavily front-loading deals for older players was common under the old CBA, and the new one takes steps to limit the amount a player’s salary can drop year-over-year. Nobody talked about it, however, which at least allowed for a plausible story that didn’t involve breaking the rules: That the plummeting dollar value was meant to reflect the declining skills of veteran players.
Daly said the NHL always reserves the right to open an investigation if it deems the move necessary, but don’t expect him to get any more material to work with.
After trading accusations earlier in the day, both Alfredsson and Senators general manager Bryan Murray expressed a desire to move beyond the contentious negotiations and look forward to the upcoming season.
With the league now paying attention, opening up their behind-the-scenes negotiations to further discussion benefits neither side.