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Riku Helenius’s Contract

Riku Helenius is a goalie who was in the Tampa Bay Lightning system.  He has only played one NHL game.  It was back in 2008/09 and he only played seven minutes in it.  He returned to Europe to play and the Tampa Bay Lightning convinced him to come, after he won the Swedish Elite League trophy as top goalie, with a two year contract he signed in 2012.  The first year was a two-way deal and the second year offered him $650,000 whether he played in the NHL or in the minors.  The problem was he wasn't an NHL goalie.  He was playing in the AHL and he wasn't playing particularly well there.  Tampa Bay wanted to send him down to the ECHL.  The problem is according to the CBA, any player who is not on an entry level deal has the right to decline being assigned to the ECHL.  Helenius did this.  After some time he chose to report to the ECHL and play for the Florida Everblades.  His mind wasn't into it.  He played four games and then decided he didn't want to be there.  Again he declined being sent to the ECHL.  The Tampa Bay Lightning then terminated his contract claiming he breached it.  Helenius claims that he has the right to decline demotion to the ECHL.  The Tampa Bay Lightning claim that he abandoned his team.  The NHLPA is now appealing the contract termination.

The question is can a player who has the right to decline an assignment to the ECHL decline the assignment after he has already accepted it.  Does he only have the right to decline an assignment before he reports to the team?

In Tampa's case, they are happy to get out of paying Helenius.  $650,000 for a player who isn't succeeding in the AHL is a large price to pay.  It was a mistake to give him the contract.  If they make his life miserable enough they can get him to breach the contract and thus not have to pay it.  This will be an interesting test of the CBA as it is appealed.

Here is an article on this issue.

Filed in: | The Puck Stops Here | Permalink


J.J. from Kansas's avatar

From the sounds of this case, and your description of Helenius’ behavior and his mental state, I side with the Lightning on this.

Helenius faltered at the AHL level too.  I don’t know if it was because they were “making his life miserable” and it doesn’t matter. His performance numbers were bad.  I don’t agree that an assignment to the ECHL is a day-to-day thing, as it seems Helenius is claiming by an assertion that he can decline being made to stay there once he’s accepted an assignment there.  I believe the arbitrator will see it my way as well, as assignments end at every level of hockey at the behest of the team.

Helenius violated his contract.  Seems a pretty stupid move by the guy pouting his way out of $160,000 when all he had to do was show up to get it.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 04/11/14 at 09:03 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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