Investigation ongoing in strange Blackhawks episode

Darren Dreger

7/4/2009 6:14:15 PM

According to both the NHL and the NHLPA, the investigation into how and why the Chicago Blackhawks bungled a number of their qualifying offers is ongoing.

Neither side will comment, however since this story broke Friday evening on, interest into how the league and players association will respond is significant.

If the NHL grants leniency and attempts to sweep this issue away, it's expected the NHLPA will swiftly file a grievance and the matter will go to a hearing.

Sources with hands on knowledge of how qualifying offers have to be filed say as innocent as this mistake may have been, there is no excuse for it, and the league should follow through with the ultimate penalty and declare all players who didn't received proper notification, unrestricted free agents.

Blackhawks stars Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker are among that group.

Neither player has arbitration rights and both should have received qualifying offers of less than $1 million, retaining their playing rights for the 2009-2010 season.

Versteeg, a highly skilled forward was a Calder Trophy nominee, while Barker on the open market would easily command between $3 and $5 million per season.

Dale Tallon told TSN he believed all of the qualifying offers were post marked for June 29th and didn't sound concerned when the matter was discussed on Friday.

Tallon acknowledged there was a mistake made and wondered if the July 1st holiday may have interfered with the players and player agents receiving the qualifying offers via mail, on time.

Multiple sources say it's clearly stated in the collective bargaining agreement, qualifying offers, or QO's, as they're commonly referred to, are not supposed to be mailed, but rather faxed or delivered by courier.

In 2000, the New Jersey Devils forgot to file the paperwork to renew the contracts for Brian Rafalski and John Madden.

Rafalski was scheduled to make $450,000, while Madden would have earned $550,000 had the mistake not been made.

Instead, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello was forced to pay market value rather than allow his two stars to go free.

Rafalski agreed to a 4-year, $11 million dollar extension. Madden signed a 4-year, $7 million dollar deal.

While not identical scenarios, the Devils paid the price for a clerical mistake.

However, because of cap issues, the Chicago Blackhawks have no such out...other than to hope the NHL and the NHLPA find a way.