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Sykora Free Pass vs Buyout

Maybe I am the only one who really cares about this, but it struck me as odd when Russo reported that Sykora was on Unconditional Waivers. Anyone else? Well, it bugged me, so I read the CBA and I think I have the reasoning.

Make the jump if you would like. If not, well, fine then.

For the record, Russo has reported all along the way that the process of waivers was started in order to eventually terminate Sykora's contract. I was curious about how they are able to do so, what with a CBA in place and all. Generally, an NHL player cannot simply be fired is all I'm saying.

The CBA can be found HERE, for reference, or you know, for some light reading.

OK, according to page 251, part 13:

The Club, in addition in addition to rights hereunder, at its option, by written notice delivered to the Player in person or by overnight mail to the Players' address set forth herein, may terminate this SPC on the following conditions:

An SPC is a Standard Player Contract, by the way.

It then goes on to spell out the process by which Unconditional Waivers can be accomplished, and what it means to both the player and to the team. The question that struck me was why would the teams not just use this clause rather than a buy-out when terminating a contract?

The first sub-part to the clause clearly spells out that a buy-out must be initiated, and then spells out how that buy out will work. So, how did the Wild avoid having to buy-out Sykora, and avoid the buy-out period completely? Simple. They put him on regular waivers first.

By placing him on waivers, they gave all 29 clubs their shot at him. The team then reserves the right to assign him to Houston, something they know Sykora is not going to agree to.

This is where the legalize fun part begins. Looking at section 14 (b) of the CBA, it says:

14. The Club may also terminate this SPC upon written notice to the Player (but only after obtaining Waivers from all other Clubs) if the Player shall at anytime:

(b) fail, refuse, or neglect to render his services hereunder or in any other manner materially breach this SPC


In other words, the Wild, according to the CBA and the SPC, have the rights to place Sykora on Waivers, and should he clear, assign him to their AHL affiliate. They exercised this right, and Sykora has refused to render his services under the SPC with the Wild, making him in breach of contract, and allowing the Wild to put him on Unconditional Waivers and terminate the contract.

It is a very round about way of doing something that should be simple, but cannot be or teams would abuse it. It also becomes evident in this situation, that Sykora has had to be kept in the loop throughout this process, or it would be considered a major insult to him to go through this process.

My only remaining question would be to the NHL. Is this type of dealing between player and team considered collusion? The Devils used it to let Brenden Shanahan out of his deal before the season started. We have to assume Shanahan was involved in that process as well. Seems the NHL was OK with that, so they must be OK with other teams doing so as well, right?

Player and team working together to circumvent the buy-out process. Hmmm...

Let me be clear. I am not accusing anyone of anything. I am just wondering out loud (or in type as the case may be) about the process. Looking for answers, not making accusations.

Thoughts, anyone?


(h/t to @BenThrashers for hashing this out a bit over Twitter today)