The New York Islanders
were well within their rights to suspend goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
for refusing to report after the team claimed him off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings
last week, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said during an appearance Wednesday on NHL Live!
Appearing with hosts Don LaGreca and E.J. Hradek, Daly clarified the rule that allowed the Islanders to claim Nabokov, who started the season playing in Russia before agreeing to a one-year deal with the Red Wings, and said he believes the rule is a good one.
"To go back to the original purpose of the rule, there was a concern among general managers in the League that you could reach agreements, gentlemen's or otherwise, with players who may not want to spend a full season in North America, where they could go back to Europe, play in their home country and then come over here and help a team win a Stanley Cup," Daly said.
"We were worried about the integrity aspect of those types of transactions and passed this rule, a very broad rule, that says if a player plays a game in a European league after the start of our regular season, that player can be signed (by an NHL team), but would have to essentially be put on waivers and either clear waivers or be claimed by another club and you can pick up his contract."
Already this season, the St. Louis Blues
have lost a pair of players who started the season in Europe in the same manner -- they agreed to a deal with Marek Svatos
, only to see the Nashville Predators
claim him off waivers, then about a month later agreed to terms with Kyle Wellwood
, who was claimed by the San Jose Sharks
While it might not seem fair to some that one team puts in all the work to contact a player and come to agreement on a contract only to have another club swoop in and claim that player off waivers, Daly said teams understand what the risks are in trying to sign these types of free agents.
"Those clubs know full well when they go ferreting around Europe looking for players who might want to play in North America that this prospect exists," he said. "It's likely that if the player's good and the contract is a good one, they may lose him. It's a bit of a disincentive to go looking for those players."
If Nabokov continues his refusal to report and remains suspended, the Islanders would retain his rights and he can't become a free agent again after the season and then sign with another team.
"He signed a one-year NHL Standard Player Contract and he has refused to perform under that contact to this point," Daly said. "The Islanders are clearly within their rights to suspend."
"Clubs know full well when they go ferreting around Europe looking for players who might want to play in North America that this prospect exists. It's likely that if the player's good and the contract is a good one, they may lose him. It's a bit of a disincentive to go looking for those players." -- Bill Daly
Daly pointed to a situation 11 years ago with Alexei Yashin
, who was suspended by the Ottawa Senators
for failing to play and honor his contract.
"You can't rely on a contract expiring if you're not performing under it," said Daly. "If (Nabokov) continues to refuse to perform under his SPC, the Islanders have the remaining rights at one-year, $575,000."
Daly discussed the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, in which the Washington Capitals
earned a 3-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins
at Heinz Field in a game that was moved from day to evening due to inclement weather. He was asked if scheduling the game for prime time was something the League might consider in the future.
"I think the Winter Classic was great and a great experience," Daly said. "We had 4.5 million viewers, the most viewed NHL regular-season game in 36 years, so we keep breaking new barriers. Unfortunately with having the game in prime time we didn't really promote it in prime time so I don't think we picked up the width we would have if it was scheduled for prime time from the start. Do I see a role for the Winter Classic to be played in prime time? It certainly would add to the equation, and we will make that decision with NBC as our broadcast partner as we go forward."
While he would have preferred everything going off without a hitch, Daly said the decision to shift the start time -- which was made the day before the game -- was a well thought-out one and the right move for all involved.
"Instead of bringing people into Heinz Field and then having to wait for hours until we played the game, we tried to make the decision early and move the start time," he said. "While it did rain in the third period, it was not as bad as it looked on TV -- lights generally make rain look harder than it is, more dramatic. At the end of the day we had a good game, a competitive game, the conditions were as good as they could have been, the fans were crazy about it, it did well on TV ... overall, it was a very positive event."
Daly also was asked about the recent naming of Donald Fehr as head of the NHL Players' Association. Daly said he and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman have a past non-business relationship with Fehr and are looking forward to building a new, professional one with the man who formerly served as the head of the Major League Baseball Players' Association.
"It's really too early to say how that's going to play out and what the environment and temperature will be," Daly said. "We'll see as time goes on."
Daly also shot down reports that the $100 million public bond issue in Phoenix had failed, an important part of the impending $170 million sale of the Coyotes by the NHL to businessman Matthew Hulsizer.
"Totally false and inaccurate," he said of the reports. "I was given a heads-up before the report came out on the radio. We're keeping close tabs on the situation in Phoenix and the bond offering, the timing of bond offering, and it was totally out of the ordinary information we were receiving. As soon as we confirmed it with the relevant parties, checked with the relevant parties, there was no substance to the story at all."