A Crack in the Foundation

Dominic Hasek showed up at the Senators’ camp yesterday. No, the lockout isn’t over, unfortunately. It was the AHL’s Binghamton Senators. But it should make for an interesting scenario.

Normally, the only way Hasek could play for Binghamton, which he has stated publicly that he would like to do, is if he were sent there on a conditioning assignment or if the parent club demoted him. A demotion would require that he clear waivers first, and since that hasn’t happened, it would appear that this is a conditioning stint.

However, a conditioning assignment can not exceed two weeks, so it would be very, very unlikely that he would appear in a regular season game, which I believe is his ultimate intent. If he does stay with the team for the start of the AHL season, he would be paid his NHL salary for how ever long he’s there.

So the immediate question that came to me was, is this legal, under the NHL rules? Prior to the start of the lockout, there was some question as to who could be sent to the farm during the lockout and who couldn’t. The initial rule was that if a player appeared in more than 50 NHL games last season, he could not be sent down. It was later changed to each player being assessed individually. So that meant that, for instance, Rick Nash could have been sent to the Blue Jackets farm team in Syracuse, even though he’s played two full NHL seasons, if he decided to report and if the Jackets could justify it for Nash’s development.

In Hasek’s case, that would be difficult to justify. The guy’s 39, so he’s not looking to develop anything. As I said before, a conditioning stint only lasts two weeks, but will it be two weeks from the day he reports, or two weeks from the day the AHL season starts. So if Hasek wants to play in Binghamton this season, he’ll have to do it in two-week stints. And there’s going to be something suspicious if Hasek gets repeatedly assigned to Binghamton for “conditioning.” It would set a very dangerous precedent for future teams wishing to hide players from the waiver wire.

But wait a second. If the PA wanted to restrict players who played more than 50 NHL games from being demoted, how will the accept a veteran star goalie who actually wants to be there? Also, how will the NHL front office react to one of its member clubs – a small-market club, no less – paying an NHL salary to a player on a “conditioning assignment” when there’s no games for him to play when it’s over?

The bottom line is I don’t see how Hasek thinks he can play in a Senators uniform during the lockout. Either the PA will block it, just to keep the union together, or the NHL will block it, in an attempt to avoid NHL players from trying to earn their NHL salaries in the minors.

The latter part will not happen, as the AHL has a veteran rule, where teams can only dress 6 players with more than 260 games in the AHL or Europe and one player with more than 450 AHL games.


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