David Poile said he would be happy to discuss the situation at length and in great detail. Eventually.
Thursday, though, the Nashville Predators general manager remained tight-lipped on the circumstances that prompted the NHL Players Association to file a grievance against the club in regard to qualifying offers made to several players. The NHLPA contended that the offers were not tendered on time and, therefore, the players — four of them on the NHL roster — ought to be declared unrestricted free agents.
"I feel like I am a little bit on trial here,” Poile said. “There is nothing that I can say that is going to be to my benefit or our benefit in this situation. We have to let the process take its course.
“When it is all over and there is a decision on this situation, I would be happy to sit down and go over the whole thing with anybody and everybody as to what has taken place, but I can’t do that right now.”
The players in question — Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischik, Nick Spaling and Cal O’Reilly, as well as three minor leaguers — are scheduled to be restricted free agents when the 2011-12 NHL contract year begins at 11 a.m. (CDT) Friday.
The NHLPA has requested an arbitration hearing to decide the matter, one which presumably would take place in an expedited manner given the timing.
If the Predators conducted their business within the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as both the team and NHL office insist they did, the players in question will be restricted free agents and the Predators will have the right to match any offer they receive from another club or be entitled to compensation in the form of draft picks.
If, as the NHLPA contends, the Predators did not act within the proper timeframe, the players will be free to sign with any team.
“I have no idea how fast they can put together an arbitration in this type of situation because I have never been involved in an arbitration before,” Poile said. “…I have no history with this because I have never been in this situation before.”
He said the uncertainty would not affect the team’s plans when the new contract year begins and that he intended to proceed with the idea that the players are restricted free agents with qualifying offers.
Similar circumstances have resulted in players being declared unrestricted free agents, most recently with Chicago. The Blackhawks ultimately re-signed all of the players in question.