Why I’m wrong and everyone is…also wrong

Earlier today, Sportsnet reported that Ryan O’Reilly would have had to clear waivers had he gone to Calgary. I wrote a post saying that my understanding of the CBA was that if indeed O’Reilly had played in the KHL after 1/19, then he would have to clear waivers to play in the NHL. On Twitter, there were several assertions of what was true and not true about the O’Reilly situation, the most authoritative being Bob McKenzie who stated (I’m paraphrasing from memory here) that he would have had to clear waivers in Calgary, but not Colorado.

Everybody appears to be wrong. Me, them, all of us. From the CBA:

13.23 In the event a professional or former professional Player plays in a league outside North America after the start of the NHL Regular Season, other than on Loan from his Club, he may thereafter play in the NHL during that Playing Season (including Playoffs) only if he has first either cleared or been obtained via Waivers. For the balance of the Playing Season, any such Player who has been obtained via Waivers may be Traded or Loaned only after again clearing Waivers or through Waiver claim.

That’s why I said O’Reilly needed to clear waivers in order to play in the NHL. But, now, here’s a paragraph from the 2013 CBA summary:

All Players on a Club’s Reserve List and Restricted Free Agent List will be exempt from the application of CBA 13.23 Waivers in the case of a mid-season signing. For further clarity, if Club A trades such a Player to Club B and Club B signs the Player to an SPC, such Player will be exempt from the application of CBA 13.23.

This is a weird paragraph. It says if a player is already signed, but plays in Europe after the start of the NHL season, then 13.23 applies. But if he’s an unsigned RFA, plays in Europe after the start of the season, and then signs in the middle of the season, then 13.23 doesn’t apply. Why prevent the signed player from returning, but not the freshly signed player? Is that really what the 2013 clause is trying to say? Who knows. But that is literally what it says and it’s not ambiguous. (Why they changed the rule in this way is another question, and not at all clear; but the literal meaning of the rule is clear. O’Reilly doesn’t have to clear waivers, because he was a mid-season signing.)

Anyway, unless there’s another secret memo I don’t know about, clearly the original Sportsnet article was wrong that O’Reilly would have had to clear waivers in Calgary, I was wrong that O’Reilly would have to clear waivers to play in the NHL, Bob McKenzie was wrong that Sportsnet was right.

But none of us would have been wrong had the NHL lawyers learned how to write.


  6 comments for “Why I’m wrong and everyone is…also wrong

  1. jmsalsa
    March 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    LOL. Glad you cleared that up. =)

  2. March 1, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    “Why prevent the signed player from returned, but not the freshly signed player?”

    I’m thinking the distinction is made to punish players if they play overseas while under contract to an NHL team. A freshly signed player would not be under contract to the NHL team when he was playing overseas so therefore it would be unfair to punish him.

    I agree, however, that it is a clumsily worded memo.

    • March 1, 2013 at 2:14 PM

      I was thinking along those lines, but the thing that trips me up is that we’re talking about unsigned RFAs, not UFAs, so whether the player has signed an extension or not, he’s still CONTRACTUALLY the property of the club. Given that fact, whether he is a signed player who just bolted (Ersberg a couple of years ago) or an unsigned player who bolted (Moller, Holloway), I don’t understand why they would even want to make the distinction. If the team wants to punish a player with a contract, they can void the deal (like they did with Ersberg). Meanwhile, the waiver rules are there to keep teams in line, not to keep players in line.

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