Picture it: You’re at the gym for a game-day workout, visions of an afternoon nap dancing in your head, and suddenly Duthie’s beaming face (appearing in the flat screen mounted to the wall) is informing you that you, yes you, have been traded to the (sigh) Edmonton Oilers. As the blood rushes in your ears you sort of miss what the return is; and besides, you’re suddenly distracted by the onslaught of messages your iPhone is now receiving. Everybody and their cousin wants to know how you’re feeling about becoming an Oiler. Quick man, defuse those t-bombs! But what did you expect? It’s trade deadline time after all.
Yes, lost among all the talk of “trades,” “swaps,” “asset maximization” and “rentals” this time of year is the fact that at the end of the day we’re talking about people, and uprooting their lives, sometimes (often?) on a whim and almost always without notice. What we easily forget is that at the end of the day these guys are human beings. Yes, they’re millionaires and they’re built like modern-day Spartans (ok, ok, not you Phil, our beloved everyman superstar), but most of them grew up in towns and with families just like the rest of us. The only difference being that they were really really good at hockey.
So, now that the news has been broken to you that you’re leaving sunny Florida for the desolate tundra of Edmonton, what now? How do you, the player, know what happens next?
I’m glad you asked. Lost among all the talk of revenue sharing, make-whole payments and upper and lower limits during the last round of CBA talks was little known CBA provision, Article 14. This little gem – which only spans six pages – is the be-all-and-end-all of effecting player “Transfers”, which includes waiving, trading, assigning, loaning, expansion (Las Vegas anyone?) and team relocation.
First things first. According to Article 14.8, now that you’ve been traded you have a “reasonable” amount of time to report to your new team, which at this time of year means “grab your gear and get the next flight out of town because you’re playing tonight”.
Imagine that! You’ve got a house, two cars, a wife, and kids who are in school in a city that you chose to call “home”, and now you’re setting off part-way across the world and have a game to get ready for. What will become of your house? Where will you stay? What about your Hummer?! Well, you’ve got to walk before you run, so before we worry about all of those nagging details it’s important to know that Article 14.4 (b) obliges any team trading for a player after February 15th to provide that player with a single room hotel accommodation until the end of that season. Phew, so you’re not going to be homeless, anyway. As a bonus, the Oilers also have to provide you with a “mid-size” car rental for the next 21 days while you get on your feet. What luxury – thank you Article 14.5 (a)!
That still leaves you paying for a house you no longer live in, with vehicles you can’t drive, and a wife and kids who aren’t with you. What will become of them? Well let’s assume that, since you’ve got another year on your contract, you intend to rent or buy a house in the Edmonton area at some point. More than likely it won’t be mid-season, and more than likely you’re not going to uproot your family in the middle of work (and school) years; so here’s how it’s likely to play out.
First of all, as a newly Transferred player, you and your agent have likely just received this message in electronic format from the Edmonton Oilers:
“You may be entitled to certain reimbursements or benefits relating to your Transfer. However, there are time limits which apply to making a claim. Please refer to Article 14 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. You are encouraged to contact the NHLPA and/or your Agent for more information.”
Nothing says “welcome aboard, we’re happy to have you” like boilerplate contract language. Okay, so I’m eligible for certain reimbursements, how does that work?
Well, by virtue of Article 14.2 the Edmonton Oilers – as the team that just acquired you – are obligated to pick up a maximum of six months’ worth of the rent or mortgage payments you were making back in Florida so long as you obtain (by rental or purchase) a new residence in Edmonton within 12 months of being traded (note that if you don’t have a mortgage or lease, but own a place free and clear, you are not entitled to any payments in respect of that property).
But for those that do have mortgage or rental payments, sub-clause “vii” of Article 14.2 provides that for the 2014-2015 the Oilers are on the hook for a maximum of $4,100 per month. As an aside, $4,100/ month can net you a pretty darn big house in Florida at the moment. As long as you inform Edmonton of your intention to claim reimbursement within 3 months of buying or renting your new home, you’ll be eligible for reimbursement. Still can’t sell your place in Florida after six months? Sorry pal, you’re on your own.
But how will you pick out a home if your family is still in Florida? Article 14 has you covered there as well; specifically Article 14.7 requires the Edmonton Oilers to provide round-trip (economy) airfare for your wife and kids to come to Edmonton to check out houses, before heading back to pack up the old place. The Oilers will also have to provide you and your family with one-way (economy) airfare for your final trip back to Edmonton as well.
So now you’ve got a new house, but what about all of your stuff? No way you’re driving your Hummer to Edmonton with gas at a $1.36/litre, right? That’s where Article 14.3 comes into play. So long as you move your family from Florida to Edmonton within 12 months of being traded, the Oilers are responsible for covering your moving costs (including two cars since you’re married), subject only to their right to pick the company you move with.
So congratulations, you are now officially an Edmonton Oiler and you and your family are safely nestled in Edmonton for the foreseeable future, right? Wrong. Since you and your agent weren’t able to secure an “Individually Negotiated Limitation on Player Movement” (a no-trade/movement clause) under Article 11.8 of the CBA, you may just be doing this all over again next February; after all, the Oilers need to “maximize their assets” and you are just a “rental.”
No worries, though. Just play the most inspired hockey of your career down the stretch and maybe you’ll get a modified no-trade clause in your next deal. No pressure.
Just remember – lost among all the talk about adjusting to new systems, teammates and coaches, these guys also have personal lives that are drastically impacted when they’re moved at the deadline; that they’re able to focus on hockey and continue to deliver is a testament to focus and professionalism and should be lauded. So here’s to you, boys, and a happy deadline day to us all.