Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Could Coyote Players Sue if Team Moves to Winnipeg?

It has been reported that Coyote players may be able to sue to avoid relocating to Winnipeg. The reasoning would be that the player didn't agree to play in Winnipeg when he signed his contract.

Could players really walk away from their contracts if the team moved to Winnipeg?

Short Answer


Slightly Longer Answer

For the NHL not to account for relocation in its CBA and Standard Player's Contract would be as surprising as learning that Alan Thicke will play Spiderman in the reboot of the franchise with Tina Yothers as his love interest.

The NHL CBA includes a Standard Player's Contract (SPC) at Exhibit 1. In keeping with the wording of the contract, this is the standard contract, although a team and players can agree to add provisions.

With respect to relocation, Section 11 of the SPC provides that a team can assign a contract and that the player mus follow.

Here's the clause:
It is mutually agreed that the Club shall have the right to Assign or to Loan this SPC, and the Player agrees to accept and be bound by such Assignment or Loan, and will faithfully perform and carry out this SPC with the same purpose and effect as if it had been entered into by the Player and such other club.
The term "assign" just refers to the transfer of contractual rights from the old team to the new team.

What happens if a player won't report? Well, the SPC also covers that scenario - the player can be suspended:
It is further mutually agreed that in the event that this SPC is Assigned, or the Player's services are Loaned, to another club, the club shall by notice in writing delivered personally to the Player or by mail to the address set out below his signature hereto advise the Player of the name and address of the club to which he has been Assigned or Loaned, and specify the time and place of reporting. If the Player fails to report to such other club, he may be suspended by such other club and no Paragraph 1 Salary shall be payable to him during the period of such suspension.
According to Section 13.7 of the CBA, if a team relocates, a player gets $6000.00. On top of that, a player is entitled to rent/mortgage expenses and moving expenses as per Section 14.1 and 14.2 of the CBA.

Another point - if a contract expressly provides that a player can walk if a team relocates, then the player can walk. That, however, would be highly unlikely.

One more point - if a player has a No Movement clause in his contract, he still must relocate. A No Movement clause precludes a player from being traded, waived or sent down to the minors. It has absolutely nothing to do with relocation, which again, is addressed by way of the assignment clause in the SPC.

So if the Coyotes move to Winnipeg, all players under contract, including Shane Doan, Ray Whitney and Co. would have to play for Winnipeg (or retire).

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