The ongoing issue pertaining to the Blackhawks and the delivery of RFA tenders has certainly piqued the interest of many, me included. However my interest doesn’t stem from my desire to necessarily add any of these RFA’s to my team; my interest is solely in the precedent that this decision will set. I can virtually assure you that this issue will rear its head again either in a situation similar to this or when the new CBA is negotiated.
In a nutshell, the Blackhawks claim they sent the tenders to the players in time, on June 29th. The NHLPA, in its grievance claim that the tenders were not sent in accordance with the guidelines in the CBA. Let’s take a look at some of the sources for the dispute.
Here’s an excerpt from a TSN.ca article on the subject dated July 3rd. “Chicago general manager Dale Tallon says the qualifying offers were mailed to the players in time, on June 29th, but says because of the July 1 holiday, some of the players didn't receive them in time.” The holiday that Tallon references is Canada Day, which is July 1st. OK, that seems pretty cut-and-dry.
This is an excerpt from Article 10, section 2 (B) (ii) regarding Group II RFA’s: “ In order to receive a Right of First Refusal or Draft Choice Compensation (at the Prior Club’s option) with respect to a Restricted Free Agent, the Prior Club of a Restricted Free Agent must tender to the Player, no later than 5:00 p.m. New York time on the later of June 25 or the first Monday after the Entry Draft of the final year of the Player’s SPC, a “Qualifying Offer”, which shall be an offer of an SPC, for one League Year, which is subject to salary arbitration if such Player is otherwise eligible for salary arbitration in accordance with Section 12.1, on at least the following terms and conditions:”. After the CBA provides a chart for the pay scale of RFA’s it goes on to say this: “ A Qualifying Offer shall not be open for acceptance prior to July 1. If a Qualifying Offer meeting the above requirements is timely made, the Prior Club shall have a Right of First refusal, exercisable in accordance with Section 10.4 below, or Draft Choice Compensation, exercisable in accordance with Section 10.4 below. A Qualifying Offer will be deemed to have met the above requirements if the Prior Club timely provides the Player a completed copy of the notice attached as Exhibit 19 hereto, in accordance with Exhibit 3 hereto .” The key to this excerpt is that the tender needs to be sent to the PLAYER. In this year’s case the later date was the Monday after the Entry draft which was June 29th. So the tender needed to be made to the player by 5:00 p.m., New York time on June 29th.
According to the TSN.ca excerpt above, Tallon said that the offers or tenders were mailed on the 29th. In that case, there is no possible way that the players could have received the tenders by the time that the CBA specifies. That is Tallon’s and the NHL’s first problem.
Now I search for Excerpt 3 and it describes the methods in which CBA Notices are required to be delivered to any party. Under “To a Player”, this is what Exhibit 3 states: “During the Playing Season, a Player shall receive notice(s) from his Club via hand delivery. From the day after the conclusion of the Player’s Playing Season until the commencement of the Player’s subsequent Playing Season, notice(s) shall be sent via overnight delivery to the Player’s off-season address which the Player provides to the Club, and if no such address is provided by the Player, the notice(s) shall be sent via overnight delivery to the Player’s last known address.”
So putting it all together, the Hawks should have sent the notices to their RFA’s via “overnight delivery” to arrive no later than 5:00 p.m., New York time on June 29. According to what TSN reported Dale Tallon said, the Hawks sent the notices on the 29th via general mail. If they had been sent overnight on the 29th, they would have been delivered on the 30th and Canada Day would have not delayed delivery. Obviously Mr. Tallon didn’t use overnight delivery.
It appears that Tallon and the Hawks are in quite the predicament. Obviously the NHLPA filed a grievance and will fight hard to potentially make the players affected UFA’s. Just as obviously, the NHL will fight to prevent that outcome. Chicago has already acted preemptively to avoid any problems by signing four of the five RFA’s affected to contracts, including D Cam Barker to a 3 year deal worth more than $3 million annually.
I have no idea how the arbiter will rule in this case but the NHLPA certainly has a viable case. It is at least conceivable that the arbiter could make all 5 players UFA’s; even overturning the SPC’s signed in the last couple of days as they were negotiated with the belief that the players were RFA’s whose rights were held by the Hawks. This could get ugly; the type of ugly thaqt could cost someone their job. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen and that this situation is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Thank god Scott Boras doesn’t represent hockey players.