NHL to eliminate executive compensation policy

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman discusses the elimination of the league’s executive compensation policy, as decided by at the board of governors meetings.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — When general managers wanted the NHL to institute a draft-pick compensation policy for hiring coaches and executives from other teams, they didn’t envision it including fired employees, too.

So when the Edmonton Oilers had to give up a second-round pick to hire former Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, the Buffalo Sabres had to give up a third-round pick to hire former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and the Columbus Blue Jackets had to give up a second-round pick to hire former Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella, it caused quite the uproar.

Starting Jan. 1, the executive compensation policy will be gone. Commissioner Gary Bettman recommended to the board of governors that it be scrapped after one full year and relayed that there was no objection.

“What we were trying to do was provide an orderly way for young management people or coaches to be allowed to progress and move up the ladder,” Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke said Tuesday after the board of governors meeting. “But a team that had skill at identifying young people would be compensated for it. It was never envisioned it would apply to terminated employees.

“The league applied it in that manner and they presented today, I think, some compelling ideas for eliminating it and they eliminated it.”

For the past 11-plus months, any team hiring a coach or executive from another team had to surrender either a second- or third-round draft pick, depending on the time of year.

Five third-round picks and two second-round picks have been given up so far under the policy, and Bettman said those selections won’t be given back.

“Everybody operated under the same rules for a year,” Bettman said.

The Oilers were the biggest losers of the policy, having to send a second-round pick to the Bruins for Chiarelli and a third-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for coach Todd McLellan. The Toronto Maple Leafs gave up third-round picks to the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils for coach Mike Babcock and GM Lou Lamoriello, respectively.

Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan agreed with the decision to get rid of the policy but said it didn’t affect his decisions to hire Babcock and Lamoriello.

“I think about the two people we have in a coach and a general manager and the direct impact they will have for us,” Shanahan said. “We all love our draft picks but the odds, the percentages of those people having a direct impact on the organization, you prioritize. It wouldn’t have changed anything.”

Bettman said the decision was made to eliminate the policy rather than modify it because “it wasn’t a policy that was free from issues” and changes could have created more problems.

Starting Jan. 1, the league goes back to the old policy that a team must grant permission to talk to an employee but isn’t allowed to ask for compensation.

“What we had worked very well for 10 years,” Bettman said. “When I discussed this with the executive committee they were all in agreement that going back to what we had was the correct thing.”

The executive compensation policy was one of several topics discussed on the second and final day of the board of governors meeting, including concussion protocol. The NHL updated its concussion spotter program this season, which Bettman said was working along with the overall protocol.

League officials on Tuesday showed the board videos it uses to educate players and spotters and received positive feedback.

“We’re proactive in dealing with this issue, and I think the board was very comfortable with what they were hearing,” Bettman said.

The commissioner declined comment on the lawsuit filed by the family of late defenceman Steve Montador alleging concussions caused him to suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Expansion discussions included plans for a potential expansion draft, which also needs to be discussed with the Players’ Association. The executive committee met to discuss the Quebec City and Las Vegas bids Monday.

“It’s moving forward but there’s a lot of moving pieces to it,” Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tannenbaum said. “We look at the economics of it, we look at the aspect of how it affects the player pool, how you look at broadcast rights, there’s so many things you look at.”

The board next meets at the all-star game in Nashville in late January.

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