STOCKHOLM – It’s never too late to ink an NHL contract as 27-year-old defenceman Jonas Frogren proved after signing a two-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 4. He leaves Farjestad after eight seasons.
It’s not Frogren’s talent that makes the move surprising. The stay-at-home defenceman was a member of Bengt-Ake Gustafsson’s squad in the World Championship in Quebec City, notched three points, and was plus 7, topping all Swedish defencemen, in the nine games he played in the tournament.
What makes it somewhat surprising is the timing. With the old NHL-IIHF transfer agreement in place, the deadline for transfers for players under contract, such as Frogren, was June 15. However, there isn’t such an agreement in place anymore. And just a few weeks ago, it was announced that the NHL would not negotiate separately with individual clubs.
“The NHL has informed the IIHF that NHL clubs are prohibited to enter individual negotiations with European clubs. They are prohibited both due to an agreement the NHL has with the NHLPA, but also by the provisions of Article 26 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NHL would view any individually negotiated release fee to be a clear circumvention of the CBA and punishable by heavy fines and forfeiture of draft picks,” said IIHF President Rene Fasel in an article on IIHF.com three weeks ago.
“The NHL has informed the IIHF that the league will honour European contracts and they expect that the European leagues do the same with regards to players with NHL contracts. The NHL will not pursue any players who are under a valid contract with their European club,” he said.
But the NHL has also said that any player is free to negotiate his own release. If the release implies financial compensation, an NHL club is not allowed to pay such compensation to a European club. The player himself must take care of that.
After Jonas Frogren signed his contract with the Leafs, Farjestad’s GM Thomas Rundqvist said on the club website that he was happy with the settlement, acknowledging the fact that money, that thing that makes the world go around, did, in fact, change hands.
“We wanted to get a reasonable compensation, and more that what we would have got under the old contract,“ said Rundqvist.
“Now we got it.”
The solution? Frogren bought out the contract himself. He took part of the entry level salary and signing bonus and paid it to Farjestad.
It is fully legitimate according to the NHL-NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. It’s not a circumvention of the CBA, as long as the money is accounted for within the NHL’s system. In other words, whatever the Leafs are paying the player gets counted against the team’s salary cap.
What it all boils down to is how much the NHL club feels that the player is worth in terms of compensation and, secondly, if the player feels it is worth to take part of this money to pay his old club for the release.
“We’ve never wanted to stop a player to become an NHL player and now we, together with Jonas and his agent, found a solution that made everybody happy,” said Rundqvist.
With the possible exception of Farjestad’s fans.