At long last, the Dean Lombardi and the Los Angeles Kings have finally filed a formal grievance with the NHL regarding the health of Colin Fraser. For weeks Lombardi has said the team may have to “look at our legal avenues” to work the situation out with the Oilers and today, they did just that. It’s only the next step in a strange, twisted saga that has lead to the Kings GM comparing the difficulty of the trade to the Gretzky trade over 20 years ago and comparing the Oilers management to Bernie Madoff. And people say the offseason is boring.
As a fresher for fans who are just joining the story, the Kings and Oilers were working on a trade at the draft that would send Ryan Smyth to the Oilers for Gilbert Brule (with the Kings’ intention to immediately buy-out his contract). Even though Edmonton’s management said that Brule was cleared to play, NHL attorneys were involved in the process and relayed that the Kings would not be able to waive Brule since he had not fully recovered from last year’s concussion.
The two teams moved onto Plan B which consisted of the Kings receiving Colin Fraser and a 7th round pick. Instead of buying Fraser out of his contract, this time the plan was him to compete for a 4th line role with the Kings. Again, Edmonton’s management said that he was healthy and was recovering nicely from foot surgery. Once Fraser arrived in Los Angeles and was evaluated by team doctors, it was revealed that Fraser was not recovering from his broken foot/ankle and would require surgery that could keep him out for up to four months. Upon hearing the news, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini responded with a variation of: “too bad, so sad.”
Two trades, two packages filled with damaged goods.
This week, Fraser finally went underwent surgery to repair his unhealed ankle injury. Once he went under the knife, it opened up legal action for the Kings as they have physical proof that Fraser was not as healthy as the Oilers said he was. Before, it was more of “he said/she said” war of words between the two organizations. But now that Fraser has had surgery, there’s proof that Fraser was not as healthy as previously claimed.
The confusing part within the dispute is the possible conclusion to the debate. There’s no way the Kings would want to void the trade at this point since they’ve already moved on from Ryan Smyth and his $6.25 million cap hit for next season. Likewise, after the emotional press conference featuring Ryan Smyth explaining he “didn’t want to leave in the first place,” it’s doubtful that Smyth wouldn’t want to have to leave again because a trade is deemed null and void.
Since the grievance has been filed with the league, his dispute will find its way to Commissioner Gary Bettman’s desk and will await his judgment. Whether the final judgment requires the Oilers to provide alternative compensation, draft pick compensation, voids the trade, or rules in the Oilers favor, the league and both cities will eagerly await the Commissioner’s decision on the matter. No matter which way Bettman rules, he’ll be setting a precedent for all future trades. If he rules for the Oilers, he’ll basically be saying that all trades are on an “as is” basis. If he rules for the Kings, he’ll set the precedent that injured players cannot be traded unless both parties agree on the extent of the injuries. Either way, the ruling will have the potential to affect future NHL trades.
Now, we’ll wait to see what Gary Bettman has to say on the subject…