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Injured forward James Sheppard could be suspended by Minnesota Wild

James Sheppard’s off-ice ATV accident could end up costing him a significant amount of money, more than $4,000 for each day he is on the injury list, in fact.

Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher made it clear after learning about Sheppard’s mishap in Vail, Colo., that resulted in a broken kneecap, his most pressing priorities were learning the full extent of the injury and getting Sheppard back on the ice as soon as possible.

But with Sheppard being injured while taking part in a higher-risk activity, it puts into question whether or not the Wild will be able to suspend Sheppard and withhold his $803,250 salary this season until he’s healthy enough to play again. Initial reports suggest Sheppard could miss as much as four months this season.

“We’re still looking into the relevant facts and making sure that James is getting the best medical care,” Fletcher said. “At this stage we’re concentrating on helping James speed up the recovery process as much as possible.”

However, Fletcher did contend there are provisions in the collective bargaining agreement and the standard player contract to deal with such issues. It would be up to the Wild, and not the NHL, to decide whether or not it wants to suspend Sheppard and that remains a possibility.

Players are paid on a per-day basis and with the 2010-11 season spanning 186 days, Sheppard is scheduled to earn about $4,319 per day. The Wild might not think it’s worth creating bad feelings with the player for such a relatively negligible amount, but if it does, it could rely on provisions of the standard player contract.

In the SPC, it states that, “If the player, in the judgment of the club’s physician, is disabled or is not in good physical condition at the commencement of the season or at any subsequent time during the seasons (unless such condition is the direct result of any injury sustained during the course of his employment as a hockey player with the club, including travel with his team or on business requested by the club) so as to render him unfit to play skilled hockey, then it is mutually agreed that the club shall have the right to suspend the player for such period of disability or unfitness, and no compensation shall be payable for that period under this SPC.”

It goes on to say that, “In connection with a disability which is not caused by an injury sustained in the course of his employment as a hockey player…he shall not be entitled to the benefits of this agreement until he has been declared to be physically fit to play.”

Sheppard’s agent, Mark Guy, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that while doing high-altitude training in Vail, Sheppard was on a guided ATV tour with other NHL players after training and swerved to avoid a truck on the path and hit a tree.

“We have no reason to believe he was doing anything reckless or careless,” Fletcher said. “There’s no evidence to suggest he did anything other than undertake a dangerous activity.”

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