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Going to Disneyland

Bryan Helmer returns to Oklahoma City in time to start the season.
Bryan Helmer returns to Oklahoma City in time to start the season.

These days, being considered a "player-friendly" organization is a badge of honor. We all remember Kevin Lowe untrading Mike Comrie, Sheldon Souray's exposé, and a seeming inability to let players properly heal from concussions all stand as black marks against the organization, events that might make players think twice about coming to town.

But things are changing. The elite young players seem happy here, a couple of mid-level free agents have signed on, and one player even demanded a trade to Edmonton, which was a nice change of pace. Further evidence that the men at the top are making the Oilers an attractive organization? Even the guys at the minor-league level are getting taken care of. Just ask Bryan Helmer:

We went to Disneyland, compliments of Edmonton. It was good. It was a lot of fun. It was four nights, five days. It was great. The kids loved it, (my wife and I) loved it too. It was a lot of fun. It was probably one of the nicest things that an organization ever did for me in my hockey career. It was really nice that they did something like that and we definitely enjoyed ourselves.

First off, that's a classy thing to do, and I'm glad to see the organization doing it... if... well... if it's allowed. How does this kind of "gift" work when teams are supposed to be operating under a salary cap?

The matter is complicated by the fact that Helmer isn't actually signed to an NHL contract, but I'll start by figuring out if this kind of thing is permitted for guys that are before getting into the murky waters of what's permissible according to AHL rules. Let's start with article 50.2 (a) in the Collective Bargaining Agreement:

The only allowable form of compensation permitted to be paid to a Player shall be Player Salary, as set forth in this paragraph (a), and Bonuses, as set forth in paragraph (b) below. No other type of compensation, in any form (except only for "Traditional Hockey Practices" as set forth below), shall be permitted to be provided to any Player.

Not a promising start. Hard to see how "Traditional Hockey Practices" is going to cover "Family Trip to Disneyland in the Off-season", but I guess you never know:

This Article 50 does not prohibit certain "Traditional Hockey Practices," pursuant to which Clubs or Club Affiliated Entities have provided additional things of de minimis value to Players including, without limitation, parental travel to an Entry Level Player's first NHL game (not to exceed $5,000), golf outings, father-son road trips, seasonal events and seasonal gifts (e.g., picnics and Christmas parties or gifts), and milestone gifts, so long as such milestone gifts do not exceed $7,500 (U.S.) in the aggregate per Player per League Year. Such Traditional Hockey Practices shall not be counted in a Club's Upper Limit or Lower Limit, or against the Players' Share.

This offers way more leeway than I was expecting. I had thought it was going to cover things like team travel, but no sir, it's covering straight-up gifts. So far as I can tell, there is no definition of "milestone" in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, so it seems like you could stretch that awfully far if you wanted to, probably enough that each guy under contract could get a $7,500 bonus. In Helmer's case, setting the AHL record for points by a defenseman and playing in his 1,000th career AHL game provide a couple of pretty indisputable ones, so it seems that the Oilers would be well within their rights to provide him and his family with a Disneyland vacation even if he was on an NHL contract. That he's not would seem to only make things easier.

So there you go. Good job, Oilers!