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Does the Columbus, Vinny Prospal ‘gentleman’s agreement’ violate NHL CBA?

136026549On Wednesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets made a surprising announcement: Veteran winger Vinny Prospal had signed a 1-year, $2.5 million contract extension that both took him off the trade market and signaled a commitment between player and franchise.

How committed? Aaron Portzline of Puck-Rakers reported that the deal included "a gentleman's agreement that when Prospal's playing days are over, he'll stay with the organization in some capacity."

This set off some alarm bells for eagle-eyed observers like Larry Brooks of the NY Post and our radio buddy Jeff Marek (on today's "Marek Vs. Wyshynski" podcast):

Was the promise of future work actually salary cap circumvention on the part of the Blue Jackets?

The NHL CBA addresses several types of circumvention, all leading back to the same theme: You can't compensate a player in any way that goes beyond the provisions of a standard player contract. Does the promise of post-retirement employment do that?

We asked NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly if a "gentleman's agreement" is technically circumvention.

"It depends on circumstances and what the 'gentlemen's agreement' actually is," he said in an email.

As for the Blue Jackets/Prospal deal, Daly said the NHL is "satisfied that this situation isn't a violation of the CBA."

This kind of promise is probably made between a veteran player and a team with regularity, be it a place in management or an assistant coaching gig down the line. It's hard to imagine, for example, Doug Weight never having a conversation about his post-retirement future with the Islanders before coming back to play as a 40 year old.

The only question is if the promise will be kept. Ask Jeff Carter about teams honoring "gentlemen's agreements." …

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