Taking A Look at Sean Couturier’s Entry-Level “Slide”

With the Flyers having a full reserve list and being up against the Upper Limit, the question surrounding Sean Couturier's entry-level slide looms large. | Nick Laham/Getty Images

 

By: Tyler J. Altemose (@HockeyGuyTy)

Damn the written word.

In yet another battle of what appears to be plain language versus interpretation, it appears as if I and a few others have misinterpreted the CBA.

A week or so ago there was a debate on whether a team suffers a cap hit on a player who is suspended. Plain language within the CBA seemed to show that a team does not absorb the cap hit. However, an investigation into the matter apparently proved otherwise. For more about that, check out this article from Broad Street Hockey.

The issue at hand concerns Sean Couturier and his entry level “slide” risk. For those of you who do not know, an entry-level slide basically means that if a player plays less than a certain amount of NHL games in the first season of their entry-level contract, that first year will “slide” back a year. Here is the language verbatim per CBA 9(d)(i):

“In the event that an 18 year old or 19 year old Player signs an SPC with a Club but does not play at least ten (10) NHL games in the first season under that SPC, the term of his SPC and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for a period of one (1) year [emphasis mine] …”

Fair enough. What we have here are two conditions that need to be met in order for Couturier’s contract to slide. First, he has to be 18 or 19. That’s the easy part, because seeing that he is 18 the condition is easily met. The second condition is a bit murkier.

The question is what the CBA means by the phrase “does not play at least ten NHL games”. I must admit, if it weren’t for the inclusion of “at least” there were be clear indication that the plain language of the document and its interpretation are in cohesion. Unfortunately we are not so lucky.

So what weight could the phrase “at least” possibly hold to make an otherwise clear cut statement ambiguous? The answer seems to be “just enough”, because Dave Isaac of Philly Sports Daily reported via Twitter that Flyers GM Paul Holmgren indicated that Couturier can play 10 games and his contract would still slide.

Normally I would cast that off as Homer being misguided, but this issue is on the heels of a similar situation in which I wrote him off as being incorrect and it turned out I was wrong. So I suppose it deserves some credence.

For all I know this may change. If it does and it turns out I’m right, you better believe I’ll be gloating about it. Until then, my love-hate relationship with the CBA continues.

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