by PuckStopsHere on 07/06/09 at 02:52 AM ET
The Chicago Blackhawks appear to have made a very big procedural mistake. Six of their players, Cam Barker, Troy Brouwer, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Aaron Johnson and Kris Versteeg (many reports have called this group the Chicago Five - it is unclear if that means one of these six is not involved), may have not received qualifying offers correctly. If this is the case, these players would become unrestricted free agents. Apparently, these players had their qualifying offers mailed to them on June 29th. The deadline for players to receive their qualifying offers is 4PM ET on June 29th (early stories incorrectly listed July 1st as a deadline). Usually, qualifying offers are sent by courier or by fax to the player’s agent, but this was not done in these cases.
The NHL is investigating the situation and may decide that these players are unrestricted free agents. One problem with the investigation is that neither the NHL nor NHLPA are in a situation where they benefit from Chicago losing these players. It is in the best interests of both for NHL revenues to rise and one of the biggest success stories for rising revenues has been in Chicago where Rocky Wirtz has significantly improved things from the days his father Bill Wirtz owned the team. Neither gains any money if the Blackhawks lose players to free agency and risk losing the Blackhawks financial comeback if things go poorly. It is probably the individual agents who are most strongly fighting for the player’s rights to free agency and they do not have a lot of clout in the system
With their signing of Marian Hossa this summer, Chicago does not have a lot of salary cap room. They would likely re-sign these players at a lower cost if they are restricted free agents than they would be able to as unrestricted free agents. As UFA’s they would likely lose some of these players to other teams. If there is any such fallout, Dale Tallon should lose his job as Chicago Blackhawk GM. Teams cannot afford stupid procedural mistakes. This is especially true if they may wind up costing the services of Calder Trophy nominee Kris Versteeg.
The NHL has apparently wound up their investigation of the story and passed on their findings to the NHLPA. It is expected that the results will be released within the next day or two. Most are guessing that they will let the mistake go. This might show that the CBA structure has set up a situation where it is not in the NHLPA’s interests to fight for the rights of some of their players.
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