I'm not a Sabres fan, and I'm unqualified to speak at length about the above things, but this latest one is something that goes beyond being a Sabres fan, or even a hockey fan.
On Thursday, the Sabres quietly announced that they were suspending Teppo Numminen without pay. They said that he failed to show up to camp in good shape. It wasn't that he had been eating Krispy Kreme all summer and was all overweight. It wasn't that he was drunk. It wasn't anything like that. It was that he needed to have heart surgery.
This summer, the Sabres re-signed the 39-year old Finn to a $2.6M one year contract. Last year, whilst wearing the A, he tallied 29 (2/27) points in 79 regular season contests and added 10 assists in 16 post-season games. The previous season, he had 40 (2/38) points in 75 regular season games. Recently, he set the record for most games played by a European player.
He has been the heart of the Sabres blueline.
Heart. He has had two previous heart surgeries, and this one supposedly has nothing to do with correcting either of them. Nor is it for some new cardiac problem. This one is to correct a pre-existing condition. This pre-existing condition rendered his $2.6M contract uninsurable, so the Sabres wouldn't be able to recoup any of his salary from their insurance company. Their solution: suspend him without pay, citing some bullshit "out of shape" excuse.
By last check, even when you include Numminen, the Sabres are well below the salary cap limit. This can't be about that. They still have six NHL-calibre defensemen, so it probably isn't about the need to sign someone else. I'm not sure what this is about.
In situations like this, most teams would place Numminen on the long-term IR, which means his salary would not count towards the salary cap anyway. The Devils did this with Hepatitis boy. Even the Sabres did this before, with Tim Connolly and his concussion.
This is about being cheap. And disrespectful. This is about kicking a man while he's down. Darcy Regier and Tom Golisano should be ashamed of themselves.
The NHL Players' Association is investigating the matter, and should file a grievance on Numminen's behalf.
In their defense, Regier and Co dug up some subsection to some rule in the CBA saying that a player must show up for camp ready to play and he must pass his physical. If he doesn't his SPC can be nullified. Tim Graham of the Buffalo News:
“There’s a clause explicitly in the contract that states the player must pass the physical and be fit to play,” Regier said. “It’s the collective bargaining agreement, and in no way is it personal to Teppo.
“I had the conversation with Teppo. He understands it’s business. It has a lot of implications on the salary side, on the cap side.”
It CAN be but it doesn't HAVE TO be. I don't think the verbage suggests that the contract is automatically null and void. They are using this to weasel their way out of paying him. Under those same rules, the Oilers could have suspended Fernando Pisani when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (By the way, I hate to say I told you so, but Carter was invited to the Oilers camp). For once in his life, Kevin Lowe did something right. Pisani might miss the entire season, leaving the Oil on the hook for $2.5M, but Lowe et al refused to treat a sick player as a casualty of a business decision.
After the Tomas Vanek fiasco, it seems funny to say this, but Darcy Regier needs to take a page out of Lowe's book. Lowe may be an idiot, but he's not a cold, callous, heartless idiot.
Say what you will about the Sabres "doing what they had to do". Say what you will about this being a "business rather than personal decision". Say what you will about it being "fair" according to the CBA. This is a crap move.
Kevin BFLOBLOG wrote about it here.
Tom from Sabre Rattling has a more levelheaded approach. He always does.
Some folks are comparing the Numminen situation to the Scott Niedermayer situation in Anaheim, but it isn't even remotely the same. Niedermayer, who is pondering retirement, didn't show up to Ducks' camp, and was suspended. This is very very different.
With Drury and Briere gone and with Numminen suspended (and undergoing career-threatening surgery), the Sabres have nobody back who wore a letter last season. After everything that's gone on this summer, and especially the Numminen thing, more than a few feathers have been ruffled in the Lake Erie area.