The NHL slapped the Vancouver Canucks organization with a $50,000 fine for violating NHL by-law 15 – which deals with tampering, in the summer of 2016. GM Jim Benning had told a Vancouver radio station that he intended to contact Steven Stamkos' agent about the pending free agent's interest in the Canucks and how he had contacted Montreal about acquiring star blue liner P.K. Subban.
And he paid the price.
The question is now - did he learn his lesson? Or more importantly, is he doing it again?!
NHL insider Elliotte Friedman was asked, on Tuesday, about the speculation tying Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland to the Canucks after this season. The discussion, that took place on Sportsnet's 650, revealed some interesting issues on tampering - not only in Vancouver, but across the NHL. As Friedman explained in his comments, gathered by FanRag Sports:
“One thing I really believe about this league is that I don’t know if I’d call it tampering, but there are feelers put out all of the time,” said Friedman. “I remember years ago one general manager explained to me how smart people tamper.
“So let’s say I’m the owner of the Vancouver Canucks and you’re the GM I want for my team. Well if I’m smart, I’m not going to call you directly. But what I’m going to do is I’m going to play four or six degrees of separation. I’m going to say, ‘Alright, who do I know that knows you,’ or, ‘Who do I know that knows somebody who knows you.’ And I’m going to call my guy and my guy is going to call the next guy, and the next guy is going to call you, and he’s going to test him out to see if he’d be interested in my job.
“If you were to tell me that that had happened, nothing would surprise me. I think that’s kind of the way things go in pro sports, not only in the NHL – I think they happen all of the time. I don’t think they just happen for executives, I think they happen to players.”
"How smart people tamper"
Friedman went on to explain that players and agents were in the middle of tampering situations, with specifics examples. GMs across the NHL are getting the hang of this:
“I had one agent flat-out tell me one time he had a conversation six months before his player got to free agency and said, ‘I’m not doing my job if I don’t test the market,’ “ said Friedman. “So he calls up a GM he thinks he’ll be interested in him and… they never mention names. ‘Will you be looking for a left-shot D next year?’
“‘Yeah. I’m looking for someone about 28 years old. Left-shot D. Maybe has a pedigree from the Western Hockey League.’
“So basically they’re doing everything except mentioning the name. And that’s kind of the way things go.”
NHL insiders have to be careful
FanRag Sports reminded us of a tampering situation that took place a few years ago in which TSN insider Darren Dreger was dragged into (by the Canucks!). Dreger explained the situation:
“I can tell you this much – and I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this publicly, but I will,” began Dreger in March of 2016. “I, in fact, was accused as part of a tampering process years ago by the Vancouver Canucks, specific to Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The belief was that based on the alleged relationship that I had with their agent, J.P. Barry of CAA Sports, that I might have been the conduit to the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was prior to Daniel and Henrik signing their extension. Brian Burke, then with the Toronto Maple Leafs, went to Sweden and all of these things. But it was quickly dismissed.
“So it sort of supports your point, in that ‘What is tampering? How clear cut is it?’"
Dreger's name was included in the allegations and now it seems that more names, from the NHL, might be added to a list of potential tampering. The question is now, will there be more serious consequences to GMs, agents and players who take part in tampering conspiracies?