Monday, September 08, 2008

Clarifying Ken Campbell

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News is a hell of a hockey writer, but I've got to take issue with something he wrote in today's edition of Campbell's Cuts, in which he notes the urgent need for a new transfer agreement between the NHL and the KHL as highlighted by Alexander Radulov's decision to head back home despite being under contract with the Nashville Predators. Here's Campbell:
When the NHL locked out its players four years ago, the Washington Capitals wanted to send Alexander Semin to the minors, which they had every right to do since Semin was two years into his three-year, entry-level contract. Semin refused to go and instead signed a contract with Lada Togliatti in Russia, was immediately suspended by the Capitals and played in Russia for the next two seasons.

When Semin returned to the NHL in 2006-07, he should have been forced to comply with the final year of his entry-level contract because he never fulfilled it and was suspended by the team for the two seasons he was in Russia. But somehow, that final season was ignored and the Capitals, knowing Semin wouldn’t have returned for entry-level money, managed to sign him to a new two-year deal despite the fact he had not fulfilled the terms of his first contract.

When you see things like that happening, can you blame Radulov – who was contractually in exactly the same boat as Semin – for bolting back home at the first opportunity? If the NHL isn’t going to respect its own contracts, how can it expect anyone else to do the same?
Campbell's assertion that Semin "should have been forced to comply with the final year of his entry-level contract because he never fulfilled it" is his opinion, and his claim that "that final season was ignored" is a stretch. You see, when suspending a player, clubs have the option to let the contract run or enforce it upon the player’s return - that's how the the Caps "managed to sign him to a new two-year deal despite the fact he had not fulfilled the terms of his first contract."

The fact of the matter is that the Caps' decision to enter into a new contract with Semin actually saved the team money because the young Russian had bonus clauses under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have allowed him to make much more than the $1.4 million his new deal called for - bonuses he would have claimed with his 38-goal 2006-07 season.

The bottom line is two-fold. First, while there are a number of similarities between the Semin and Radulov situations, the new CBA makes the comparison imperfect (Radulov, of course, has far more restrictive bonus clauses than Semin did in his entry-level contract). Second, and more important to us Caps fans, the Caps handled the Semin situation as well as they could have, even in 20/20 hindsight - they didn't ignore anything; they made a business decision that turned out to be the right one.


AJ in Nashville said...

Oh, I think you're being a little generous here. Ken Campbell, for the bully pulpit he's able to preach from, is one of the most irresponsible, shoot-from-the-lip writers among all who cover the NHL. This is typical based on what I've seen almost every time he writes about the Predators. The man is unbelievable.

Great post by the way.

JP said...

Thanks, AJ, and maybe I should amend that first line to read "Ken Campbell of The Hockey News is a bit of a lightning rod of a hockey writer."

I know that Campbell has written a ton on the Canadian Junior leagues, and I've always found those pieces interesting, though as I noted over at FanHouse, they're certainly not without controversy. Add in your take on his Preds coverage, and a trend certainly starts to become apparent.

Anonymous said...

With the exception of Tarik, I have never, ever seen a hockey writer mention either the Semin case or the Ovechkin case and get it right. I think it's just hopeless to expect these guys to do their research seriously.