What has already been a trying year for the Devils organizations and fans may get even worse.
According to Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet in Canada, the NHLPA Executive Director in waiting, Donald Fehr, will conduct an internal review of the collective bargaining to see if - surprise, surprise - the Devils' violated the CBA by dressing only 15 skaters for yesterday's game.
The CBA explicitly states instances where teams can play below the minimum of 18 skaters and two goalies. Article 16.4 states:
"Except in the case of emergency, there shall be no reduction of the required minimum Playing Rosters of the clubs, below eighteen (18) skaters and two (2) goalies."
Yesterday counted as one of those emergency situations. The Devils were without Anton Volchenkov and Brian Rolston because of injury, and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, who was serving a game suspension for instigating a fight in the last five minutes of a game on Saturday night. The team, already playing without Bryce Salvador and Anssi Salmela and lacking the cap space to make a move, had to play with 15 skaters.
Before anyone throws their hands in the air and screams "CIRCUMVENTION! CIRCUMVENTION!", there needs to be a look at the past history of these moves happening:
1. The Calgary Flames played with 15 players at least three times near the end of last season due to injuries and cap restrictions. There was no investigation from the league or the NHLPA.
2. The Devils themselves dressed less than 18 skaters for six games in 2006-2007, and there was no investigation.
Yes, it's a small sample, but the fact of the matter remains that this has happened in the past. But only now, for some reason, the NHL and NHLPA are deciding to take a stand against these moves. But, in an emergency situation, as yesterday was, the idea of penalizing the Devils is ridiculous.
This situation, for most fans, brings right back to the middle of the summer, where the Devils followed the letter of an unwritten, established rule and faced the harsh recourse of the league. Now, it seems like it's happening all over again. The Devils did nothing wrong by skating only 20 healthy players to begin the season, and because of injuries and a foolish suspension, the Devils had to only dress 15 skaters yesterday. Did their current cap situation contribute to the problem? Of course it did. But it wasn't the main factor behind the decision.
At least the Devils have attempted to operate under their own mess. The Rangers, like several other teams, have routinely stashed big contracts in the AHL, which is more direct cap circumvention than the shorthanded lineup the Devils used yesterday.
But, once again, the Devils feel the sharp light of the spotlight, and must prepare for another potential battle with the management of the league.
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