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Bettman on Compensation for Chiarelli and McLellan, "What's Done Is Done."

For some reason the Oilers owe the Bruins and Sharks draft picks for hiring people that those two teams had fired. Gary Bettman talked about that in yesterday's State of the NHL.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you asked fans around Edmonton what they think of the idea of the Oilers having to provide compensation, in the form of draft picks, to the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks for the team’s hiring of Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan, my guess is they would tell you that they think it’s only slightly less stupid than the puck over the glass penalty. Neither was going to be working for their respective teams this season but both would have been receiving a paycheque, and for saving the Bruins and Sharks from this the Oilers apparently owe them something. Only in the NHL would something like that make even the slightest bit of sense.

Of course the Bruins and/or Sharks could opt not to seek compensation from the Oilers here, but given that the Oilers are more than a little desperate for quality front office personnel, there really is no reason for them not to put the screws to the Oilers. Getting out from under those contracts is good, getting a draft pick thrown in as well, that’s great. And so, for hiring Chiarelli the Oilers will owe the Bruins a second round pick and a third round pick will go to the Sharks in exchange for the Oilers giving McLellan a job; these picks will have to be handed over at some point over the next three seasons.

If your team’s Assistant Coach or Assistant GM were to be hired away to take a bigger role with another club then some form of compensation makes sense. So a rule of some sort to deal with front office moves is probably needed. But blindly applying that rule to all situations, like it is currently, makes absolutely no sense. And so it’s probably a safe bet that the compensation rule will eventually be modified (this is the NHL we’re talking about so don’t expect common sense to win out immediately) to only cover those situations where an employee is actually still employed by the team.

It likely makes sense then for the Oilers to delay handing over these draft picks for as long as possible, hoping that the rule will be changed and they’ll be allowed off the hook at the same time. But according to Gary Bettman even if the rule changes, he sees the Oilers still owing those picks. From yesterday’s State of the NHL:

Question: You've spoken over the years about prudent spending. I wonder what your thoughts are on one of your membership teams spending $50 million on an eight-year contract for a coach?

Bettman: One of our clubs did that?

Our clubs are free to do what they think is in their own best interest when they're retaining executive talent, managerial talent.

In Toronto, Mike Babcock decided this was a good thing for both of them to do, that's their decision.

Question: There was a question about the new coach in Toronto. You've sort of changed how the league is going to deal with compensation for staff going from team to team. Can you give us an update on that? Are you pleased with how that's going? Is that something you'll be discussing with the GMs and/or the Board of Governors in Vegas?

Bettman: 'Pleased' isn't exactly the word I would use.

As I think you all know, arising out of the disputes eight or nine years ago, I established a policy that there is no compensation. Personnel, under contract, if you want to talk to the team that had the rights, either said yes or no. Once they said yes, and the deal could be struck, then that person was free to go.

The managers as a group for years, probably two or three, cajoled, begged, pleaded, demanded that we make a change. We wanted something that was straightforward and simple, although I believe there was nothing more straightforward and simple than what we had.

We put in effect the new policy for the potential for compensation on January 1st, and we'll let it run a full year before we consider doing anything. At that point in time the options will be to either clarify, to modify or to eliminate. But we'll let it run its course over a full year and then decide what, if anything, we want to do.

Question: Back to the idea of compensation back and forth between teams. I know you love hypotheticals.

Bettman: That's because I generally don't answer them.

Question: If there were to be a change in that rule, any compensation that is owed based on deals that happened during this year...

Bettman: What's done is done.

Question: So what's done is done, regardless of whether the pick had changed hands yet?

Bettman: The fact of the matter is everybody's operating under a system, basically possibly with some adjustments, due to some people's interpretations, but this is a system that the GMs wanted, and I acceded to. We’ll see how it works for a year. That’s what’s going to govern what happens during this calendar year.

Interesting, what’s done is done seems pretty final, so even though it makes no sense it certainly sounds like the Oilers should plan to hand over those picks sooner or later. Of course the NHL, in the past, has been known to change its mind when it comes to things like this, so maybe they should sit back, wait for later, and see what happens.