Continued from Part 1…
RLD: After the contract with New Jersey was rejected by the NHL, did L.A. ever get back into the mix?
Grossman: They did express a desire to get back in the mix, but we were consistent in telling them that we felt we owed it to New Jersey to try and rectify the situation.
On the contract being rejected…
Grossman: It became very problematic because we didn’t know what the rules were at that point. Once the arbitrator made a decision, he pointed to a couple things, but at no point did he say a 17-year contract was invalid. Really, the biggest thing he had an issue with was how the contract dollars were allocated. I didn’t agree with the decision, but it was what it was, and we had to come up with another model. We did our best to work with the league and try to satisfy them first and sort of get a pre-approval. They weren’t really willing to do that, so we took their guidelines and moved forward. We signed a contract, second submission, that we felt was as best we could do in trying to satisfy all the constituencies.
RLD: How tough of a process was it to re-structure the contract?
Grossman: It was more difficult than you would think. A lot of was because the guidelines just weren’t clear as to what was gonna fly, what wasn’t gonna fly. Again, there were a lot of constituencies to satisfy more than just your normal negotiation, where it’s just the club and the player. We had to satisfy the league, to some extent satisfy the NHLPA. And then you had to utilize the arbitrator’s guidelines and sort of craft your decision. So, it was more complex at that point than people thought.
On public getting frustrated with the process…
Grossman: I’m not really sure at what point the hockey-viewing public got frustrated with the process, certainly with it being in the media every day over the summer. Fans like watching the games, and dealing with the business aspect of it is not something that’s worth the price of admission, so to speak.
RLD: Was the KHL ever a serious option for him?
Grossman: Definitely. I think that Ilya felt this was the best place for his family, making a long-term decision. He’s got three young kids, he’s got the ability to stay in one place through their high school… which for a professional athlete, it’s a luxury. Had things fallen apart with New Jersey, I’m certain that the KHL would have been a place that Ilya would have ended up. He’s got a tremendous regard for hockey in his country. He’s played on his national team, been the captain on his national team, he’s won the World Junior, he’s won two World Championships… so he’s accomplished a lot in Russian hockey. He’s considered, in a lot of a ways, a hero in Russian hockey circles. So he respects very much what the leadership of the KHL is trying to accomplish. I just think right now, in this stage of the development of the two leagues, it’s pretty clear that the best players are over here. I think he was very level-headed about it and not emotional with nationalistic strings pulling at his heart.
RLD: Now, the deal was done on September 3rd… was there a date where you said ‘if it’s not done by then, we’ll re-explore our options’?
Grossman: Not really. I think there was some pressure obviously from the KHL; their season was about to start. At the same time, I think Ilya knew there would always be interest from the KHL if he wanted that option. They certainly made a very substantial financial offer to him. I don’t think there was any hard deadline. It seemed like that was the case, publicly, but privately the negotiations and discussions with New Jersey were really more centered on re-submitting a contract that was the best we felt we could do to satisfy everybody. There was recognition of the fact that we might have to go to another arbitration hearing, and that’s what we were concerned about, satisfying an arbitrator in ‘round two’.
RLD: If he did decide to return to the NHL, do you think it would work here in Nashville?
Grossman: Well, over three years period in time we’ve had that conversation at different junctures. We sort of made the determination that, when/if Alex shows that desire, we’ll address it then.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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