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2013 NHL CBA: The Formalization of the Alexei Cherepanov Rule

As part of the new collective bargaining agreement the NHL now officially protects teams in case of the death of an unsigned first round pick. Wait...what?

I had no idea Jaromir Jagr was involved in the Alexei Cherepanov situation.
I had no idea Jaromir Jagr was involved in the Alexei Cherepanov situation.
Bruce Bennett

The 2013 NHL CBA has finally surfaced online, and the document is being combed for details large and small. Dirk Hoag at On The Forecheck explained the new revenue sharing system in detail a few days ago. I've begun reading the document, and there are several interesting wrinkles worth discussing.

The initial change is the formalization of the Alexei Cherepanov rule.

Cherepanov was a first round pick of the New York Rangers in 2007. He went 17th overall due to concerns that he would be stuck in Russia due to the lack of a transfer agreement. In reality he was one of the top all around players in his draft class. In his three seasons in the Russian Superleague/Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) Cherepanov tallied 70 points in 107 games. He was scoring at nearly a point per game in a man's league from ages 17-19. He was legit.

Unfortunately he passed away at the age of 19. His heart stopped on the bench after a collision with then linemate Jaromir Jagr. if you want to search for video of the incident it exists, but I'm not going to link it here.

In the aftermath of Cherepanov's death the New York Rangers began pursuing compensation for the loss of Cherepanov. In this ESPN article from 2008 Rangers Assistant General Manager Cam Hope references Article 8.3 (b) of the old CBA.

"The question is with the one parenthetical phrase in Article 8.3 (b) that refers compensation for an unsigned first-round draft pick who is '… again eligible for the Entry Draft or becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent,'" Rangers assistant general manager Cam Hope told the newspaper. "That language was inserted to clarify that a team would be owed a compensatory pick even if they were to re-draft that player or sign him as a free agent.

"It seems now as if that phrase is unintentionally precluding the deceased from being included as eligible for compensation. We understand that this is a sensitive issue, but with all due respect to Alexei's family and his memory, he is technically eligible to be drafted again next year."

The Rangers present a strong case for compensation. They were clearly unable to sign their draft pick since he, well, died. They went off the deep end arguing that he could technically be drafted again in 2008 given that he, well, died. No one is drafting a dead man. Aside from the pointless comments at the end of the quote, the Rangers were able to show that they were entitled to compensation for their pick.

The Rangers would end up being awarded the 17th pick of the second round of the 2009 draft as compensation for the death of Cherepanov despite the fact that the compensation rules didn't cover the death of prospects. Under the new CBA the language of the compensation section has been changed to cover this situation in the future:


The NHL now ensures that unsigned first round picks who die are now covered by compensation officially. This seems like a severe amount of overkill given the highly unlikely possibility of a first round pick dying prior to coming to the NHL, but here we are.

This possibility only gets discussed because of the death of Cherepanov, otherwise the scenario is so out there as to not really need addressing. The level of compensation is out of whack as well. The image above presents the example of the third overall pick in the draft dying (sorry possibly Nathan MacKinnon). The team holding said player's rights would receive the third pick in the second round. Does that pick really replace the loss of talent from losing the third best player in the draft? Not even close.

It's a strange nuance of the new CBA that likely, (hopefully) will never be invoked again. It doesn't really restore the value of a lost player either, and I feel like it's in the same poor taste that the Rangers practiced when they began asking for compensation in the first place. Maybe it isn't in poor taste and I'm extra sensitive to the situation for some reason, but it sure seems tasteless to me.

Regardless, now if a talented teenager dies the NHL club is entitled to compensation for their loss. I'm relieved to know that the NHL cleared that situation up. Hopefully you will sleep better tonight knowing this trivial bit of information as well.