Last night on twitter Garrett Bauman and I read James Mirtle's article which suggested Ron Wilson and Brian Burke were interested in bringing Mike Van Ryn back next season. Van Ryn's apparent openness to returning started us on the path to figuring out just how the Maple Leafs could go about signing him this summer. We lamented the fact that he didn't have 400 games played in order to qualify for the one year contract with bonuses outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. We even wrote a pair of posts outlining what we thought was how the collective bargaining agreement applied to Mike Van Ryn.
Turns out, we were probably wrong. A special thanks to a friend that does a lot of work with contracts (but isn't a lawyer) that couldn't wait to tell me I was wrong. Not that he'll comment here. Far too busy to mix with the proletariat. Anyway, I asked the Oilogosphere's resident lawyer for a legal opinion that in no way should be considered advice or should be acted upon, etc., etc., etc. Here's a re-hash of the relevant CBA passage:
The CBA permits performance bonuses in the following circumstances:
(2) Performance Bonuses shall be allowable under this Agreement only for:
(iii) Players who are "400-plus game Players" for pension purposes, and who:
(i) in the last year of their most recent SPC, spent 100 days or more on the injured reserve list; and
(ii) have signed a one-year SPC for the current or upcoming League Year.
"Pension purposes" is apparently the key word. After the jump, I'll turn it over to mc79hockey:
This was the section that made my friend suggest that I might have misunderstood the CBA:
A Player who plays eighty-two (82) games in any playing season (with games for which a Player is dressed and available to play, games missed due to a Trade or Waiver claim, and games not played because of illness or injury or because the Player has been temporarily Loaned to a club in the Minors solely for conditioning purposes following an injury or illness, in each case counting as games credited for this purpose) shall be entitled to a full credited year of service and full allocation of contributions for the applicable playing season. A Player playing less than eighty-two (82) games in any playing season (with games for which a Player is dressed and available to play, games missed due to a Trade or Waiver claim, and games not played because of illness or injury or because the Player has been temporarily Loaned to a club in the Minors solely for conditioning purposes following an injury or illness, in each case counting as games credited for this purpose) shall have credited to his account a proportionately reduced amount for the applicable playing season determined by the ratio that the number of games credited bears to eighty-two (82) for each applicable playing season. Subject to Sections 21.3(b) and 21.5, the Clubs will make the contributions and allocations called for above.
Trying to parse that paragraph is where I ran into some trouble and that's where the non-binding, non-official opinion helped:
So, in order to qualify, Van Ryn needs (a) 400+ games for pension purposes, (b) to have spent 100+ days on injured reserve this year and (c) to have signed a one year SPC.
Looking at the pension definition, it seems to me that the intent is to give credit for a game if you play, if you're too hurt to play or if you're doing conditioning to return from an injury. Assuming every game that Van Ryn has missed this year was due to injury and that he wasn't healthy scratched in any of them, I think he probably qualifies for the incentive laden deal. If you've got an argument that he isn't, let me have it and I'll tell you what I think.
One caution with interpreting the CBA - there are arbitration decisions out there that we aren't aware of which have interpreted it and which will be treated as authoritative by the parties and, if there's a dispute, the parties to the CBA can rely on evidence about their subjective intentions when they made the deal, which is unusual. In other words, what you see isn't always what you get. The wording of the "over 35" section is a complete disaster, for example, as the NHL's position on the Pronger deal does not (to me) seem to fit with the wording of the CBA. I assume that they have some evidence of what it's supposed to mean that we aren't privy to.
Another legal mind (same disclaimer) agreed with that interpretation and threw some legal jargon in so you can blow your friends' minds:
I agree. All I could add would be that a "purposive" approach supports this interpretation. If you're hurt on the job, you should get pension credit while your hurt. Same idea behind the fact that you collect salary while on IR.
So, it looks like our fears for Mike Van Ryn's pension might be all for naught. As mc79 noted it is difficult to interpret the CBA with 100% certainty because there are still decisions and precedents to which we may not be privy. Having said that, it certainly does seem like he will be given all that is due to him. In terms of his summer contract negotiations it means that he is eligible for a one-year contract with bonuses. Keep in mind, as I mentioned yesterday, that until the current CBA is re-negotiated or extended that all bonuses are counted against the salary cap (which will increase by almost $900K) whether or not they are reached. However, assuming that happens he will be able to follow in the footsteps of Jason Allison and Eric Lindros as players that the Maple Leafs rolled the dice on bringing in on similar deals. Hopefully, if it does come to be this one is much more successful than those two. Of course, it would be nice if some intrepid reporter worked their league contacts to find out a definitive answer...