Lombardi faces new challenge in suspension of Voynov

BY foxsports • October 21, 2014

Dean Lombardi has ventured into uncharted waters. The Los Angeles Kings' general manager has never faced an indefinite suspension in the salary cap era before. 

It's not quite as simple as recalling a defenseman to fill the spot of suspended defenseman Slava Voynov. There are too many moving parts, too many parties involved and too many questions that he just doesn't have the answers for right now. 

"That's where it all gets gray here," Lombardi said. "There's so many things. Slava certainly his rights, then you have the process of the police and their investigation, then you've got a league investigation, then you've got the issues of, OK, how long does this go? So, we're kind of in limbo until this process plays out."

Lombardi had a conference call with the NHL on Tuesday afternoon, but no details were provided. He expects to take part in many of them over the next few weeks. For now, though, he's hoping for a little clarity on how to proceed next, but he's not expecting a great deal of answers. 

"In the meantime, I obviously think that this has implications for, do we recall a player? Will there be implications on the cap? What's the shortest he could be (out for), if he's found not guilty how soon will he be back?" Lombardi said. "There's so many issues here."

What Lombardi is sure of is that the team is still paying Voynov during his suspension. What he is not yet sure of is whether or not his salary counts against the salary cap. Lombardi has a couple of options that he is still exploring. Jake Muzzin receiving medical clearance would solve many problems. 

But with the depth already thin, Lombardi could either place a player on long-term injured reserve or decide to carry only five defensemen and then apply for an emergency roster call-up.

"There isn't strict things things that say, 'This is what you do when this happens, and this happens and this happens,'" he said. "That's the hard part here is that there's no specific guidelines, even like an injury time range."

The guidebooks are still being written at a time when all major sports leagues are trying to figure out how and what to write. Voynov's suspension was imposed under section 18-A.5 under the Collective Bargaining Agreement but, in the past, players were still eligible to play until the due process of the law was completed. This was true in all four North American professional sports leagues.

Lombardi championed both the cause and the CBA clause. But that doesn't make it any easier to deal with the open roster spot and a cap too full to allow for a minimum salary.

"For the NHL, I think this is kind of new turf. And I think this is new turf to a lot of leagues," he said. "The old system was, play until the criminal system makes it's case. Well, that 'aint the case anymore. So what do you do with all of this gray that's out there, particularly again in the cap era where it's not so easy to recall a player and deal with these things? But we'll have to start working our way through."

Lombardi has advocated for more education on domestic violence at the league and team levels, and he's studied the effectiveness of specific programs. Guilty or innocent, Lombardi does not want these issues ignored, he wants them prevented. 

There is more to be learned from this than just procedures.

"But we've always said that a public figure is held to a higher standard and it's even the appearance of impropriety," Lombardi said. "We all -- including me and the coaches -- we've all got something to learn from this. In the end, I think there's a chance to make us stronger without, in any way, condoning this, depending on how the outcome comes out. Just being here right now is a lesson."



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