Toronto Maple Leafs: NHL Has Weak Argument in Rejecting Jonas Frögren Deal

Josh LewisSenior Analyst IJuly 11, 2008

The big news in Leafland over the past 24 hours is the NHL's rejection of the Maple Leafs' contract with Swedish defenseman Jonas Frögren.

The 28-year-old defender was drafted by the Calgary Flames in 1998, but never made the trek to the NHL. He is described as a steady stay-at-home blueliner and played for Team Sweden at this year's IIHF world championship.

The Leafs recently signed Frögren to a two-year deal that would pay him $450,000 this season and $900,000 next year, along with a $700,000 signing bonus. It's a one-way contract, which means Frögren is guaranteed those dollars whether he plays in the NHL or with the Toronto Marlies (which isn't likely, as GM Cliff Fletcher has spoken about Frögren playing in the team's top six).

Yesterday, however, the league office announced it was rejecting the contract, claiming that the Leafs had to sign Frögren to a three-year entry-level deal.

Even at first glance, that doesn't seem to make much sense. Since Frögren is too old to be considered a rookie (Calder winners must be 26 or under), it doesn't seem right that he should be forced to sign a rookie contract.

The Fro, as he has been nicknamed, has played professional hockey in Sweden for a decade. This is no raw teenager coming out of junior.

Now, thanks to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, we have some concrete evidence to back the Leafs' position.

Here is what the conflict boils down to:

According to Article 9(c) of the league's CBA, "a European player who signs his first SPC (Standard Player’s Contract) at age 28 or older is not subject to the entry-level system under any circumstances."

Remember the last three words: under any circumstances.

But the NHL argues that they're right because of Exhibit 16 (sounds like a strange thing to name something in a CBA, but I'm no lawyer), which states that anyone who has been a defected player "shall be subject to having to enter the league through the entry-level system."

Apparently Frögren was once a defected player with the Flames, despite never playing a game in North America or signing a contract of any kind.

So the league stubbornly claims that Exhibit 16 trumps Article 9(c), even though it is extremely vague and was added as a transition piece after the CBA was completed.

Well, just about anyone over the age of 14 could tell you that isn't true—or at least shouldn't be.

Gary and Bill, you might want to read Article 9(c) again. Closely. Especially the last part.

Frögren is not subject to the entry level system under any circumstances.

That includes this silly Exhibit Defected argument the league is trying to come up with. That's a circumstance, and it is addressed by the previous passage.

I rest my case.

If the PA's lawyers are worth their salt, Jonas Frögren will be a Toronto Maple Leaf for the next two years. What happens after that is entirely up to the Fro.