This certainly won't please David Branch. After months of speculation of big money offers handed from Canadian Hockey League teams to NCAA players to shove off their college commitments and play up north, a team, and a dollar amount, has been given.
According to a report in the Michigan Daily by student reporter Matt Slovin, Jacob Trouba, the No. 9 overall pick to the Winnipeg Jets, has been offered $200,000.00 to play with the Kitchener Rangers this upcoming season:
Monday night, a different OHL source informed the Daily that Kitchener has presented the Trouba family with a "huge offer" that remains on the table. The source added that he "believes it will happen."
In place of an education package, the source said Trouba could be compensated to about $200,000.
Kitchener head coach and general manager Steve Spott declined comment. [Michigan Daily]
UPDATE: The Kitchener Rangers have denied any kind of payment to the Trouba family. Steve Bienkowski, the Rangers chief operating officer, tells Yahoo! Sports that the team has retained legal counsel and will be pursuing legal action against the Michigan Daily.
Trouba was the second American selected in June's NHL draft, but was the first NCAA-commit to come off the board, so naturally, this would be considered a pretty big loss for College Hockey if Trouba indeed decides to dishonour his commitment to join the University of Michigan.
This report comes just three days after another Michigan-commit, Connor Carrick, decided to join the Plymouth Whalers. A year ago, John Gibson also left Michigan to join the Rangers.
Is it legal? OHL Commissioner and CHL President David Branch has adamantly stated in the past that 99% of players are not being paid under the table to jump from the NCAA to the CHL.
An education package, which offers a year of education at a Canadian university with a CIS program for every year spent in the CHL, isn't a right that can be waived for a cash payout and there's no legal way to circumvent it. As far as our understanding goes (there's no place to find the CIS agreement online) education is offered by the CHL and the not the team, so cash in lieu of an education isn't something that can just be offered by Kitchener if the program is centralized.
Is it true? Chris Peters followed up on the Michigan Daily story earlier today:
I fear that Slovin's status as a student reporter will be held against him (unfairly) and that the team or league will try to discredit him. That's not to say the young reporter isn't stepping out on a limb, because he is a bit. From the few interactions I've had with Matt, I have a hard time believing he'd run with this if he didn't feel strongly about his source.
Craig Campbell, Kitchener's president, told one inquisitive tweeter that the report was "utterly false." However, earlier this morning, the team's head coach and GM Steve Spott declined comment to Slovin. It makes sense, seeing as it's just as difficult to prove innocence as it is to prove guilt, but the seed of doubt has been planted. [United States of Hockey]
The Rangers aren't the first, and probably won't be the last, team to offer a significant package to a major NCAA talent to coerce them to come North. The report is more believable then not, but it's damning enough to think that the OHL may not just let this one slip by. Rumoured dollar amounts for certain players have made their way through email inboxes and over a few beers, but there's no on-record report about a dollar figure being offered to a player or a family.
Then it raises the moral issue. Does a player take an NCAA education or a big payday early on in his career? Going the CHL route also means that Trouba could sign his entry-level deal years earlier, which come equipped with signing bonuses. Without knowing his or his family's financial situation, it's tough to play the moral police and tell kids to go to school. An education can come at any time, but a six-figure payout is a one-time offer for an 18-year old.
We'll see where this story goes in the next few days, but this could be one of the big stories surrounding Winnipeg Jets' rookie camp slated to open on July 9. Trouba will be present, whether a Michigan- or a Kitchener-commit.
Previously: Winnipeg Jets pick Jacob Trouba eyeing OHL instead of Michigan — report [Buzzing The Net]