TORONTO — Gary Bettman doesn’t have much sympathy for the salary cap crunch the Los Angeles Kings have experienced since he suspended Slava Voynov.
The NHL commissioner used newly granted powers to ban the Kings defenceman indefinitely with pay after Voynov was arrested Oct. 20 on suspicion of domestic abuse. He has yet to be charged.
Voynov’s $4.167-million salary remains on the team’s cap because he continues to be paid and has already forced the Kings to play one game with 19 skaters and another with just five defencemen.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association tried unsuccessfully to find a solution to provide relief to the Kings, but Bettman doesn’t think the case highlights a failing in the collective bargaining agreement.
“Every team has to manage its salary cap, right?” Bettman said Monday after speaking at the PrimeTime Sports Management. “It’s just the way it works.”
Voynov’s situation is unlikely to change until the legal process moves forward. Police in Manhattan Beach, Calif., met with the Los Angeles County district attorney to discuss the case last week and Voynov is due in court on Dec. 1.
The NHL also launched its own investigation but Voynov has so far exercised his right under the CBA not to speak with league officials.
“It’s something we continue to monitor,” said Bettman. “Part of the process involves we need an opportunity to interview him and other relevant parties which, while the legal proceedings are pending, they’re not comfortable with.”
Voynov has already sat out 12 games and would have forfeited more than $265,000 in salary if his suspension was without pay.
By keeping him on the Kings payroll the NHL has managed to walk the tightrope of presumed innocence. Essentially, it protects the league from any potential legal ramifications should Voynov never be charged or convicted.
A year ago, the NHL allowed Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov to continue playing after his girlfriend came forward with domestic abuse accusations (the charges were eventually dropped). However, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Monday that “the facts we had available to us at the time Mr. Voynov was suspended were different than any of the facts we ever had during the Varlamov case.”
If anything, the Voynov situation should serve as a warning to NHL teams about the dangers of operating right up against the salary cap.
While there are provisions in the CBA to provide cap relief for injuries, it doesn’t extend to legal matters. And should another situation like Voynov’s arrive in the future, the team that employs him will likely face the same difficult cap ramifications as Los Angeles.
“The integrity of the game requires teams to comply with the salary cap,” said Bettman. “That’s what creates the competitive balance. Every team has to manage its cap.”