One thing noted by hockey operations earlier this morning and reiterated by Dean Lombardi in a discussion with team beat writers earlier today was that there is little precedent for the team’s situation as it relates to yesterday’s news regarding Slava Voynov.
Voynov has been suspended indefinitely, and from the conversations LA Kings Insider had with hockey operations, his contract will continue to remain against the Kings’ salary cap, pending a conference call later today and further developments and conversations between the team and the league. Much is still in flux.
As of the team’s understanding, Voynov can’t participate in any team activities, though as Lombardi would note, there isn’t anything that would prohibit him from skating on his own. Among other secondary concerns, there are issues of whether he would have to take part in the Substance Abuse/Behavioral Health Program, whether this affects his visa status, and the definition of “indefinite,” as penned in yesterday’s league release.
“I guess that’s what we’ll find out, right?” Lombardi said. “I mean, it has cap implications, roster implications. Like I said, the CBA, I’ve had Solly tear it apart.”
And there isn’t much in the way of clear, written principals or guidelines that would direct the league or team to act in this situation. It is a fluid situation, and will continue to be per conversations with the team and the league.
There is complete understanding and cooperation between the team and the league.
“I think part of that is I don’t think there’s any question we’re behind what the league’s done,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi, who found out about the news from Senior Vice President/Hockey Operations and Legal Affairs Jeff Solomon early yesterday morning, said the NHL informed him of the indefinite suspension “right away.”
“There was no doubt,” said Lombardi, who said that he hadn’t seen or spoken to Voynov yet.
“Obviously given the situation, I think you’ve got to let the process go through before you start getting to that. I know Darryl went over there and spoke to him more as a coach, but right now, I think we’ve just got to let this process go through,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi said he isn’t surprised about how the NHL acted, that they did not have to explain why, and that the response was appropriate.
“I think it’s pretty self-evident,” he said. “The biggest issue you’ve got, there’s always that line between innocent until proven guilty, right? So that’s where the rub is. ‘Are you surprised by what they did, particularly, obviously in this climate?’ No. Then the issue of ‘Well, is it appropriate considering he hadn’t [been charged], because in the old days, before this, you saw the other cases, the leagues would always say, ‘Well, wait a minute, there’s a criminal process that has to take place before they can react.’ Even in the NBA, they had nine cases in the last three years. You saw that in baseball at times with Albert Belle, Canseco. So it was always that was the way it was handled, that there’s a criminal thing, let it play out, even the players played because we were going under the premise of innocent until proven guilty. That now has obviously changed from the old days, which, I get it. So to say ‘I’m surprised’ that they acted that way, no. And do I think it’s inappropriate? No. And the danger is saying, ‘Well, he hasn’t been proven guilty.’ But that’s clearly the way leagues are headed right now, that the charge itself is enough to take action, whereas in the past it wasn’t.”
More from Lombardi, via a question and answer session he held with the team’s beat writers earlier today:
Q: What does the suspension mean-?
A: That’s the thing. I’ve got a conference call today. That’s where it all gets grey here. Like I said, I mean there are so many things – Slava certainly has his rights. Then you have the process that the police and their investigation, and then you’ve got the league investigation, then you’ve got the issues about “OK, how long does this go?’ So we’re kind of in limbo until this process plays out. But in the meantime, that obviously has ramifications for ‘Do we recall a player? What are the implications on the cap? What’s the shortest, if he’s found not guilty, does that mean he’s still suspended?’ Because like, there are so many issues here right now, that I think we’ll start – I’ve got a call today, but even then, I don’t expect a lot of answers. And I think for the NHL, probably this is kind of new turf, and I think it’s new turf for a lot of leagues. Again, because the old system was play until the criminal system does its thing. Well, that ain’t the case. So now what do you do with all this grey that’s out there, particularly again now in a cap era where it’s not so easy to recall players and deal with things. But, you know, we’ll have to start working our way through with it.
Q: Have there been any other issues – not necessarily this – have there been any disciplinary, behavioral issues with him, either here or in Manchester?
A: No, no, nothing. Nothing at all. Nope. He’s never been late for practice, even. I mean, this is actually a kid, too, that remember when he could’ve made more money in junior hockey and he was in the minors, and then his father was really struggling there. This is a kid who kept his word in terms of how he handled that, which I thought was really impressive that a kid would do that, particularly in terms of what he was up against at a very young age. So actually, it was on the other side of the ledge, where anything involving things that you might consider character issues, off-the-rink, even when we drafted him, he kept his word about coming over here right away when he could’ve made a ton of more money in Russia. All of his character checks were to the positive side.
Q: This is a team renowned for its unity and all the intangibles that we’ve discussed over the last five months or so. How do you see this affecting this group, this room? Would there be any fallout, just in terms of everything that you and Darryl have constructed and this team has constructed?
A: Well, I think that’s a question for the players. I think this is a different challenge. I think we’ve seen them meet every possible challenge – well, continue the way that they’re playing right now is another challenge. But they’ve always met those challenges, and this is one of a different sort because it involves something that affects the team that clearly had to do with outside the rink. But I would expect them to figure it – it’s a different challenge. It’s something new for them. It’s something very different than being in an eight-game losing streak and pucks going in off the back of the net. This has personal implications, obviously again, somebody that they’re very close to who’s never had issues before, and now clearly, looking at it strictly on the ice, it hurts this team that he’s not in the lineup. But my guess is they’re going to meet this challenge like they’ve met every other one. I think there’s something that could be said for this that it might make them stronger, and I hate to learn the word ‘lesson,’ because again, now we’re back to if you’re using that, then you’re presuming guilt, and that’s the problem also, of even talking to you about anything like this right now while there’s all this going on. But I think it’s safe to say even the appearance of impropriety, now we know the ramifications of it. So just being here right now, that when you’re a professional athlete, when things go good, you can be up here and they make video games of you. When things go bad, it’s a heightened standard here. So, again, without indicting anybody, I think that’s a lesson that probably constantly needs to be reinforced, but I think it’s really brought home right now from a personal standpoint, to a friend, a teammate, and also, you know what? This is the kind of stuff that in the old days, they used to sweep it under the rug. Baseball’s had this problem – how long have they had it? Darryl Strawberry. Albert Belle. Jose Canseco. Go right down the thing, [and it’s swept] right under the rug. Well, it ain’t happening that way anymore, boys. And even when you’re not guilty…and so again, that’s why it’s dangerous saying that, because you’re assuming I think he’s guilty. But we’ve always said that a public figure is held to a higher standard, and it’s even the appearance of impropriety. So, again, I think we’re all going to – including me, the coaches – everybody’s got something to learn from this. And in the end, I think there’s a chance to make us stronger without in any way condoning this, but, depending on how the outcome comes out. But just being here right now is a lesson for us all.
Q: Have you talked to the guys as a group?
A: No, Darryl talked to them, and I talked to a few players. But see, then, I have to be careful. I just tried to get a general idea of what happened, but until the investigation’s done, I don’t want to get stuff piecemeal. I’ve got to let these guys go through the process. But I think the message right now is kind of what I just talked about right now, you guys have got to pull it together, and it’s another challenge. It’s very different, and we better learn from this.
Q: So, potentially, they could be interviewed by the league investigation, the local authorities? Has any of that started yet?
A: Yeah, obviously the police have to do their job. That’s started, and the league has its – and that’s the other thing too here. Don’t forget you’re still in uncharted waters here. Like, even look at the CBA and stuff. There isn’t strict things, ‘OK, this happens, this happens, this happens,’ and then you’ve got the whole issue of let’s just say there’s no resolution, right, in terms of a court date…so what does that mean for the league? Because generally, like I said, when looking at it in the past with these other guys, it was over within like two, three days. There were never any charges filed, and…the guy was playing the next day. But obviously that was clearly to get it out of the way, there was no intent to find out. So now you’re dealing with all these procedures. And then, once again, you’ve got league issues, you’ve got policemen issues, you’ve got team issues, you’ve got union issues. So when you’ve got so many interests involved, it’s like the Adrian Peterson thing, right?…Well, the union’s going to get involved, the agent’s getting involved, the player’s involved, the league’s involved, the team’s involved, and they come out, well, the theory was the exempt list.
Q: Maybe this is a question for you or for Mike (Altieri) – have you heard from any sponsors, any team sponsors expressing concern over this?
MA: That’s a fair question. Not that I’m aware of at this time.
DL: Well, if that happens, we can address it. But I think part of that is I don’t think there’s any question we’re behind what the league’s done. We don’t question it one bit, understanding what their job is. So I think part of seeing that action taken before, it’s more because I think the feeling was my understanding was when that came up in the other instances, it was because maybe the team wasn’t behind what the league was doing. So I don’t think that’s the case here.
Q: So just to kind of make sure I’m clear on it – you’re operating now as if you’re not going to have him for-
A: Well, that’s what I’ve got to find out this afternoon. And I don’t know if I’m going to get an answer, but like I said, I don’t even know how to answer the question, because there are so many things that can happen here…[Reporter: What does an ‘indefinite suspension’ mean?] Right. But what are the speed bumps or the flags that tell you that this could happen? So if it’s a court date, well, OK, but a court date from what I understand could be tomorrow, it can be three months from now. What he’s charged with, is it in fact, what the evidence looks like to the police? Because then you have the standard where they’ve said that you saw this now with what the NBA’s come to before, that there wasn’t enough for a criminal conviction, but now the theory is ‘Well, that ain’t going to let you off the hook that a league is not held to beyond a reasonable doubt,’ so they can have their own standard, that maybe it’s preponderance of the evidence. So you’ve got that theory. [Reporter: If he is charged, what happens to his visa status?] Well, throw that in there, too. But in terms of the whole thing – and if you’re moving totally away from the human side – that this problem has to be solved on its own. Now you come back to the team, it’s trying to get those guidelines in terms of – it’s just like an injury, right? How you think on your team is very different if a trainer comes to you and says ‘He’s out two weeks’ or ‘he’s out eight weeks.’ Very different. And that, let alone, how that affects who you recall, do you look for trades, blah blah blah. So I’m not equating this to an injury, but within here, you don’t ask a trainer [about] the science of what’s happening. ‘How long?’ That’s what we want to know. And now go do what you’ve got to do. And so that’s the hard part here, is there’s no specific guidelines. Even like an injury, there’s a range. ‘OK, what’s the range here?’
Q: So, basically with the time table, I don’t know if you took to Bill Daly…earlier when you first found out, was it basically like a short conversation, they said, ‘Dean, this is what happened, this is what we know,’ and you’re like, ‘OK, do what you have to?’
A: No, I didn’t question them at all. To me, it was ‘I get it.’
Q: Do you remember what the time range was? Was it real early in the morning?
A: Well, it was early in the morning. Like, Gary had talked to our owner. The President and I talked. To me, there was no question that this was going to happen. Now it’s question of how long, and let the process go through.