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Custance: ‘Wining and dining’ window’s trial run endured some ups, downs and murky boundaries

The Red Wings were one of the beneficiaries of the NHL's new "wining and dining" window in which teams are actually legally allowed to speak with unrestricted free agents-to-be regarding their possible "fits" in new cities.

This used to go on in generalities broached by players agents and GM's, and the extra-legal pre-free agency chit chats about, say, a client who may be available for X dollars at Y years, probably still went on between the trade deadline and the start of free agency, but the "wining and dining" window is at least supposed to bring that out into the open and actually allow both UFA's-to-be and prospective employers get to know each other over days as opposed to career-defining minutes and hours after noon.

The problem with the "wining and dining" period this year, as ESPN's Craig Custance notes (in an Insider-only article), is that dollar amounts were already being exchanged before the NHL, at the behest of one GM (cough Dean Lombardi cough), clarified the rules, and not everyone adhered to the rules of engagement given that nobody really knew what the boundaries were:

Negotiations technically weren't allowed during the 48-hour window, although not every team realized that, which created a disadvantage for those playing by the rules and an advantage for those moving forward with the impression that detailed negotiations were permissible.

"It wasn't a window, it was full-fledged, door wide open," one GM said. "All it ended up being was the barn door is open and the bell goes off."

On Wednesday night, one general manager I spoke with openly talked about the negotiations he had already conducted, clearly unaware that he was breaking any rules.

"Truthfully, it felt a lot like July 1 of the past," he said that night. "You felt like you needed to get in the game right away. The one positive is you didn't have that ax hanging over your head, like if you didn't get to that number right away, the player was signing elsewhere."

Custance offers much more regarding said scuttlebutt, how things worked out for Nathan Horton, and he does say that the NHL and NHLPA plan on trying to hammer out some more concrete rules going forward--in no small part because the "wining and dining" window will become a much more involved process over the course of the CBA:

In the new CBA, it specifies that agents and players can speak with interested teams starting one day after the NHL entry draft or no later than June 25. The window closes on June 30.

Since the 2014 NHL draft is June 27-28 in Philadelphia, an NHL source confirmed that the interview window next summer will be open during the draft, in a five-day stretch from June 25-30.

What exactly can be said during that window has yet to be determined. The vague wording in the CBA's critical date calendar that says that unrestricted free agents may meet and interview with new clubs, but may not sign new standard player contacts (SPCs) until the opening of the signing period will be clarified.

As Custance suggests, the agents,' "Hey, GM A, player B might be available this summer at C dollars for D years" phrases and the GM's abilties to say "yes" or "no" to such loosely-worded talk without engaging in tampering, but at least taking things out into the open (and, obviously, if you get a player and a team executive into the room, no amount of memos will take money off of the potential theoretical conversation table) for the most part, and it allows players to decide whether a team's personnel, coaches' expectations, style of play and the city and surrounding area in which they're situated are a good fit, and regardless of whether it's a superstar being wooed or a grinder taking a tour, the fewer times that the Mike Commodores of the world have to be woken up by their agent and decide in five minutes whether to join a team that they end up not wanting to play for (Commodore was one of the few players who really did want out of Detroit because of its coach)...

The better.

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Bugsy's avatar

the fewer times that the Mike Commodores of the world have to be woken up by their agent and decide in five minutes whether to join a team that they end up not wanting to play for

Anytime you have to make job decisions that quick, it’s not a good thing.

Glad you made it up there safe.

Posted by Bugsy on 07/09/13 at 11:02 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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