NHL Cannot Pick and Choose Moments to Enforce Its CBA

NEW YORK - JANUARY 19: Ryan Malone #12 of the Tampa Bay Lightning carries the puck against the New York Rangers on January 19, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I kind of don’t care about the NHL trying to clamp down on long-term contracts.

I think it’s a stupid loophole that teams are exploiting, but I also think it’s one that needs to be closed during contract negotiations, not after.

But I can totally get that the NHL wants to make sure everyone works within the framework of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The NHL obviously feels long-term contracts, like those given to Roberto Luongo and Ilya Kovalchuk, violate the spirit of the CBA, if not the letter.

And to be honest, those contracts might even violate the letter. I’m not a lawyer. I still get 12 cassettes a month because of the last contract I signed.

But I do want to point out one thing.

Back in June of 2008 the Tampa Lightning hired Greg Malone as their head of professional scouting, right around the time they traded for the rights to negotiate with Ryan Malone.

Greg Malone, in addition to being a former NHL player and a scout for Phoenix and Pittsburgh, is Ryan’s father.

A few days later Ryan signed a seven-year deal with the Lightning.

Maybe Ryan would have signed the contract without his dad getting hired in the organization.

Maybe Tampa really wanted both Malones.

But what if Greg was hired to make Tampa more desirable to Ryan? Then shouldn’t Greg’s salary count against the cap, too?

Also, please note Ryan has not indicated his dad’s hiring was a factor in his decision to sign with Tampa.

Within the NCAA, this sort of thing is common, but is also a violation of NCAA rules.

As far as I know, the CBA has no such rule prohibiting the hiring of family members as a recruitment tool, but it gives teams an unfair advantage, much the way a front-loaded long-term contract does.

If the NHL wants to make sure all of its contracts honor the spirit of the CBA, it needs to start looking at all of the contracts that get signed. The league also needs to look at all of the things that happen around a signing.

It’s not enough to care when it’s a $100 million contract spread out over six decades. The NHL is either interested in preserving the spirit and integrity of the CBA or it’s not.

Up until a few weeks ago, the league seemed to have no interest. Now, suddenly there is interest.

Since that’s the case, the league needs to do the right thing and review every contract signed since the lockout.

It’s not fair to punish the most recent offenders while possibly missing out on some older ones.

Without consistent enforcement of the CBA, the NHL’s actions over the past few weeks will seem downright arbitrary.