Corey Perry’s focus isn’t on hockey right now.
As the veteran forward made clear in a statement released after the Chicago Blackhawks terminated his contract for a material violation, Perry is prioritizing his family and his health during this time in which he is not employed by a team during the NHL season for the first time since then. 2004.
“I have begun working with experts in the field of mental health and substance abuse to discuss my struggle with alcohol and will take all necessary steps to ensure this never happens again,” Perry wrote in a released statement Thursday. “I hope to regain the trust and respect of all those who believed in me.”
The specific details of what led Chicago to cut ties with its alternate captain remain unknown. Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson called it a “workplace matter” and indicated it did not involve criminal activity.
His organization is understandably sensitive to any incidents involving employee misconduct after it failed to act in 2010, when former player Kyle Beach claimed he was sexually assaulted by video coach Brad Aldridge. The Blackhawks paid a $2 million fine to the NHL for “inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and premature response” when details of that situation emerged in 2021 and also reached a confidential settlement with Beach.
However, a contract termination like the one initiated with Perry is rare in the NHL, especially since it involves a former Hart Trophy winner who has a borderline case for possible induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In recent years, NHL clubs have generally executed contract terminations in cases involving criminal charges (Slava Voynov, Mike Richards) or for minor transgressions involving core roster players (Brendan Leipsic, Jake Dotchin).
Perry’s case appears to fall somewhere in the middle of those two poles, at least based on how Davidson loosely framed what happened during an emotional media availability in Chicago on Tuesday night.
Even at age 38, Perry was an important player for the Blackhawks. He wore a letter, was paid $4 million to serve as a mentor in a young locker room and was the team’s third point producer when information reached management last week that prompted his removal from the lineup while an investigation was launched .
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On Tuesday, Perry was placed on unconditional waivers for termination purposes. It was a surprising turn of events with potential repercussions that extended far beyond the situation at hand.
With no disrespect to anyone affected by Perry’s actions, and no judgment on the circumstances that brought him here as they remain largely unknown, it’s worth taking a step back to understand what constitutes reasonable grounds to terminate a contract with the NHL.
The standard is exceptionally high.
All offers are fully guaranteed.
Yet the terms of a standard player contract do not offer complete clarity as to what constitutes a material breach because while section 2(e) requires that a player “conduct himself on and off the rink in accordance with the highest standards of honesty, morality , fair play and sportsmanship, and to refrain from conduct detrimental to the interests of the Club, the League or professional hockey generally”, paragraph 4 of the SPC provides that a team may “establish reasonable rules governing the conduct and the conditioning of the Player.” But in case the player violates these rules, the punishment is limited to a “reasonable fine” or suspension from the team.
The rule for a breach worthy of termination of the contract is not expressly stated.
We can only read history as a guide, and the examples are varied: everything from the Tampa Bay Lightning moving to terminate Dotchin’s contract because he showed up to training camp out of shape in 2019, to Lipsic’s deal being terminated by the Washington Capitals In 2020, after private conversations went public in which he discussed drugs, women, other NHL players and their significant others, the San Jose Sharks terminated Evander Kane’s contract in 2022 after he submitted a card of counterfeit vaccination and did not report.
The Kings terminated Richards’ contract in 2015 after he was accused of attempting to cross the border in possession of controlled substances, though they ultimately agreed to pay the player a portion of his remaining salary and were hit with a limit negotiated until 2032 as part of a settlement arising from a complaint.
And Los Angeles terminated Voynov’s contract two years later after he was charged with domestic assault.
In Perry’s case, the Blackhawks said in a statement this week that he “engaged in conduct that was unacceptable and in violation of both the terms of his standard player contract and the Blackhawks’ internal policies intended to promote professional and safe work environments.” .
Where exactly the line should be drawn is not entirely clear.
For example, when video surfaced in 2019 of Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov with what appeared to be cocaine on a table in front of him, he was suspended three games by the team for inappropriate conduct.
Judge as you can the individual acts exposed here. The point is that an NHL player found to have behaved in an unprofessional manner does not always find his contract terminated.
Perry has 60 days to decide if he wants to file a complaint through the NHL Players’ Association. The matter remains under investigation, according to a union spokesperson.
If he were to choose to go this route, it would be an exercise in preserving his earning power.
Perry is entitled to retain about $1 million of his $4 million salary after spending about 25% of the season on the Blackhawks’ roster before his contract was terminated, meaning he technically owes money back to the organization because he received a $2 million signing bonus. during the summer.
However, he has the right to take his case before an independent arbitrator, under Article 17 of the NHL’s CBA.
Should that happen, Perry would fight to receive the full amount of the remaining salary owed on his contract in 2023-24. There is no circumstance under which he could be reinstated to the Blackhawks roster and resume playing there in the short term.
Filing a complaint would also have opened up the possibility of reaching a negotiated settlement as Dotchin and Richards did. Kane also received money from the Sharks to make up the difference between what he was originally owed and what he received from the contract he signed as a free agent in Edmonton.
Perry is already an unrestricted free agent and has all the rights afforded to any player in that situation.
He is eligible to sign a contract with another NHL team at this time. And he would need to sign somewhere by the March 8 trade deadline in order to suit up for the next playoffs.
There’s no indication yet that a return is even remotely a priority for Perry. His statement focused entirely on addressing the remorse he felt for the harm caused by his actions and disclosing his need to enter treatment for his alcohol problems.
“I would like to sincerely apologize to the entire Chicago Blackhawks organization, including ownership, management, coaches, trainers, employees and my teammates,” Perry wrote. “I would also like to apologize to my fans and family. “I’m embarrassed and I’ve let you all down.”
Corey Perry apologizes for ‘inappropriate’ behavior.
Rival teams who currently don’t know what led to the termination of Perry’s contract any more than the general public does should keep their situation under review. They would like to gain a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding his exit from Chicago to gauge whether he might ever be able to resume his hockey career, and will ultimately have to see where he stands personally after having some free time to look treatment.
There may still be a path back to the NHL for Perry.
Only time will tell.
(Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)