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Predators qualifying offers under dispute, may lose three to unrestricted free agency

The Nashville Predators and their dispute with the NHL Players’ Association could result in the Predators losing three roster players to unrestricted free agency. But it could have been worse. Much worse.

Had the Predators not filed for team-elected salary arbitration the qualifying offers under dispute would have been eight instead of seven. And one of them would have belonged to Shea Weber, the Predators franchise defenseman and finalist for the Norris Trophy.

As it stands, Nashville is faced with the possibility that Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk and Sergei Kostitsyn could be declared unrestricted free agents. The contracts of minor-leaguers Chris Mueller, Andreas Thuresson, Linus Klasen and Cal O’Reilly are also in dispute.

Here’s the situation as it has been explained to THN.com by a source with in-depth knowledge of contracts and the CBA.

The dispute over the seven qualifying offers in question centers around the word “tendered.” Players entering restricted free agency must be tendered qualifying offers in order for the team to retain its negotiating rights with the player. Players making less than $600,000 per season must receive a 10 percent raise on their qualifying offer, those making more than $600,000 and less than $1 million must receive a five percent raise and those making more than $1 million must be offered at least their current salary.

The collective bargaining agreement states qualifying offers must be “tendered” to players by 5 p.m., New York time on June 25 or the first Monday after the entry draft. The deadline day this year fell on June 27.

According to several sources, the Predators prepared the qualifying offers and sent them off to the players by Federal Express at 4 p.m., on deadline day. The only problem is the players did not receive them until the next day. The Predators did not fax the qualifying offers to either the players’ agents or the NHL Players’ Association.

In any event, the NHLPA insists that since none of the players, their agents or the NHLPA actually received the qualifying offers by the deadline means they were not tendered on time. The league and the Predators, on the other hand, contend that sending the offers out on deadline day meets the CBA requirements. The league contends it has been deemed acceptable in the past for teams to send out their qualifying offers on the day of the deadline. The NHLPA counters that, while that might be true, it has also been standard practice for both the agents and the players’ association to be faxed copies of the qualifying offers before the deadline.

One thing is for sure: the situation will prompt a clarification in the CBA so both sides know exactly what the procedure will be in the future.

Arbitrator George Nicolau is expected to hear the case and the NHLPA has asked for the hearing to be expedited. It’s not known yet when Nicolau will be able to hear the case and make a ruling, but expect it to come down in the next few days.

Predators GM David Poile declined to comment on the situation, since it is now out of both the players’ and the Predators’ hands after the NHLPA filed a grievance on the matter.

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