It’s one thing for an alleged incident of domestic violence to thrust one’s playing status into limbo. It is another one still when the resulting uncertainty all but freezes an entire roster.
Such is the unique set of circumstances facing the Los Angeles Kings following the arrest of Slava Voynov by the Redondo Beach Police Department on October 20th. According to the arrest report, Voynov is suspected of causing “injuries that were possibly received during a domestic violence incident” to his wife, Marta Varlamova.
Reacting swiftly, the NHL suspended the Kings defenseman within hours of his arrest. The verbiage within the Collective Bargaining Agreement that applies to this situation reads as follows:
The League may suspend the Player pending the League’s formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the Player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.
In a fateful twist that has steered both the team and league into uncharted waters, Voynov will continue to be paid until the legal situation is resolved. As a result, the defending Stanley Cup champions have been financially hamstrung for the past month.
Allegations of domestic violence must be taken seriouslyIt goes without saying that allegations of domestic violence must be handled with extraordinary care. Judging by the steps it has taken, the NHL has clearly learned from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s admitted mistakes in that regard, not to mention its own previous errors. Although NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly indicated that “the facts and circumstances are different” than the Semyon Varlamov domestic violence allegation last season, Varlamov was nevertheless allowed to continue playing until his case was resolved. Ultimately, his case was dismissed.
No decision as to Voynov’s legal status has been rendered by the Los Angeles district attorney’s office as of this writing, and may not be until his scheduled court appearance on December 1. For what it’s worth, Voynov’s wife was reportedly against his arrest.
The Voynov suspension has saddled the Kings with dead cap space
It’s not the suspension itself that has Kings management reportedly fuming over the league’s actions, but the fact that the suspension is with pay. As a result, his entire $4.17 million salary counts against the cap, with no remedy (long-term injured reserve, for example) available. “We’re kind of playing it day by day,” admitted Daly.
The Kings are far from pleased. “We’ve got $4.1 million in salary-cap purgatory,” said senior vice president Jeff Solomon. “How do you get out of that? That’s really beyond our control.”
The problems facing the Kings as a result of the indefinite suspension and dead cap space aren’t just theoretical. Twice in the past month, the team was forced to dress just five defensemen as a result of not having the financial flexibility to deal with injuries. I detailed the most recent instance in this piece earlier this month, one in which the Kings were $160 short of being able to call up a minimum-salaried defenseman to replace the injured Robyn Regehr.
The situation facing the Kings is uniqueThe NHL has admitted that the situation is unprecedented and has expressed a desire to forge a negotiated solution to the Kings’ salary cap dilemma. “We’ve had discussions with the players’ association over the last several weeks to see whether maybe some kind of one-off relief might be available,” said Daly. “We haven’t been able to reach an agreement.”
Regardless of the outcome, the uncertainty caused by the salary cap problem likely has already negatively impacted their season. The Kings have lost seven of the twelve games they’ve played since Voynov’s suspension was levied, and have six more to play before December 1. That being said, head coach Darryl Sutter would not allow the situation to become an excuse for the team’s on-ice play. “We deal with distractions all the time,” he said. “We’ve been able to handle a lot of adversity and pressure for three years now. It’s a legal process, and we’ll let that play out.”
As stated previously, Voynov’s legal status will likely be determined on or before December 1. Until then, all bets are off as to whether or not a negotiated solution to the salary cap dilemma can be reached.
What do you think? Should the league and the player’s association move swiftly to give the Kings salary cap relief? Feel free to comment below, or send a tweet to @McLaughlinWalt.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.