Michael Russo of the Minnesota Star Tribune is a very respected journalist covering the Minnesota Wild. He is usually spot on with his analysis, and is generally speaking level headed with his commentary. It comes as a huge surprise the speculation that he is drawing from the current situation between the Anaheim Ducks and prospect Justin Schultz. The Ducks have been working hard to sign Schultz to an entry level deal since he finished his season with the Wisconsin Badgers, but so far have failed to get the young man to ink a contract. Last week the player signed his intent to leave school, but without a contract the Ducks now risk losing the player to unrestricted free agency.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement Article 8.6.c.iv States;
If a Player drafted at age 18 or 19, who had received a Bona Fide Offer in accordance with Section 8.6(a)(ii) above, becomes a bona fide college student prior to the second June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft and does not remain a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain exclusive rights for the negotiation of his services until the fourth June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft.
The CBA then goes on to state that;
A “Bona Fide Offer” is an offer of an SPC which is for a period corresponding to the Player’s age as required under Section 9.1(b) of this Agreement to commence at the start of the next League Year, offers at least the Minimum Paragraph 1 Salary as set forth in Section 11.12 of this Agreement for each League Year covered by such offer and remains open to the Player for at least thirty (30) days after receipt of the offer by the Player. A Bona Fide Offer may be conditioned upon acceptance by the Player within thirty (30) days and carries no right to salary arbitration.
What all of this Lawyer speak truly means is that when Schultz formally withdrew from school, he received a formal qualifying offer from the Ducks, which he has 30 days to sign. Based on the fact that June 1’st will be the fourth June 1’st since he was drafted, after 30 days he will no longer be on the reserve list of the Anaheim Ducks.
But back to Mr. Russo of the tribune, a writer that I greatly respect and admire. He has challenged during a question and answer session on twitter last week that he believes that Schultz has already determined that he would like to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Ducks at this very time may be looking to pursue tampering charges against the Leafs. This is quite an accusation, one which the Maple Leafs will and should take very seriously. Remember some four years ago when Ron Wilson told a radio show the day before free agency opened that Burke would be actively pursuing adding Henrik and Daniel Sedin, which resulted in the loss of a draft pick.
There is no doubt that somebody in the Leafs organization has been speaking with Schultz, but in all likeliness that person is former teammate Jake Gardiner. There is no specific rule in the CBA about players speaking with one another about plans for signing as a free agent, unless a member of management is using said player to act for the organization. Essentially, the burden of proof for tampering is to prove that some member of Leaf Management has told Jake Gardiner that the organization plans to sign his friend, and uses the player to make some contact.
First, the team would not do such a thing. The tremendous risk involved would be more than enough to deter Burke, Nonis, and company to avoid such tactics, not to mention Burke and Bob Murray of Anaheim have been good trade partners in the past and are friends with one another outside of the game. Second, if somebody in the organization did attempt to do this, it would be difficult, if not impossible to prove. The competition for Schultz is pretty much an even playing field between all thirty teams in the League because the CBA allows zero leverage in terms of dollar amount in the contract. The thing that Schultz will more than likely be looking for is a chance to play in the NHL sooner rather than later, something the Leafs may be able to offer. The Chance to reunite with Gardiner may also entice the young man to move north of the border.
In conclusion, the idea that the Ducks could or would file tampering charges against the Leafs is patently absurd. If the player makes it clear to the Ducks as the thirty days approach that he will not sign, Bob Murray will more than likely inquire through the players agent which team he is leaning towards signing with, at which time Murray will attempt to procure some sort of compensation in exchange for exclusive negotiating rights. If Schultz is hell bent on playing in Toronto, something that so few players actually are, he will cost the Leafs at the very least a third or fourth round draft pick. Professional courtesy between Burke and Murray almost demands it.
This article Cited elements of the Collective Bargaining Agreement Between The National Hockey League And The National Hockey League Players Association. The document can be found at http://nhlpa.com/docs/about-us/nhl_nhlpa_2005_cba.pdf, which will be in effect until September 15, 2012.