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Will NHLPA push for fines over suspensions in new NHL CBA?

Greg Wyshynski
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From the preseason to the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there were 56 suspensions in the National Hockey League last season. Some of them were rather lengthy, but 22 of them totaled only one or two games.

The NHL has used the one-game suspension as a way to hit a player financially above and beyond the $2,500 cap on fines under the current CBA. The most infamous example of this workaround was in 2010: When James Wisniewski, then of the New York Islanders, was suspended two games for making a lewd gesture towards Sean Avery of the New York Rangers.

His financial hit: $79,268.30.

But if the cap was raised significantly on fines, would the NHL still opt to suspend players for a game or two to send a message? Or could a message be better sent financially, without taking players off the ice?

It's something the NHLPA is expected to push for as the details of the next CBA are settled.

That's according to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE, whose roadmap to a lockout settlement on Wednesday included this nugget:

A source indicated to CSNNE.com that the NHLPA is looking to make substantial alterations to the disciplinary system set up by the NHL. Aside from NHLPA representation in a more clearly defined appeal process, the players association is angling toward allowing the NHL to fine players much more than $2,500 for on-ice infractions.

Right now it's the maximum a player can be fined, but in many instances a heftier fine could arguably take the place of a one-game suspension for borderline hits. If a player like Chara were suspended for a borderline offense, for instance, he would miss $73,000 in game checks for each game he was suspended.

A fine for $25,000, for example, would send the proper message to a player without causing them to miss a game and a hefty game check along with it.

This debate is decades old, as former NHL president Gil Stein argued 20 years ago that fans pay to see players and that depriving them of that honor via suspensions was bad for the NHL. The NHLPA, we imagine, isn't going that far — just seeking to get rid of man-games lost for the "misdemeanors" in the NHL.

As a refresher, repeat offenders within the NHL's supplemental discipline process lose salary based on the number of games in a season (82). Non-repeat offenders lose salary based on the number of days in the season (which was 185 last season).

The one-or-two-game suspension guys from last season aren't exactly an NHL's rogues gallery: Ville Leino of the Buffalo Sabres, Kyle Quincey of the Detroit Red Wings, Clarke MacArthur of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pierre Marc-Bouchard of the Minnesota Wild to name a few.

Do these guys deserve the same kind of punishment, especially as first-time offenders, as your Raffi Torres's and Dan Carcillo's of the world?

Our take on supplemental discipline has always been that large fines are likely to get a player's attention before man-games lost. The current system does both, and that's OK when you're dealing with repeat offenders. But when you're dealing with players that, by and large, don't cross the player safety line with frequency, would a large fine suffice as being fair and effective?

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