NHL GMs Okay “Cherepanov Rule”

NHL general managers voted Tuesday to award a compensatory draft pick to any team that selects a player who dies before signing a contract. The rule must now be approved by the NHLPA, and was spurred by the Rangers' assertion that they should get a pick as a result of Alexei Cherepanov's death in a Russian League game in 2008.

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the rule will be retroactive and will net the Rangers a second-round pick in the 2009 draft. He writes that it is unclear if the original rule, which governs unsigned draft picks, will need to be rewritten as a result.

The way the rule was written opened the door to the Rangers request in the first place. The rule about unsigned players made no point of discussing situations that resulted in the death or career-ending injury of a player before they were signed. That obviously falls outside the letter of the law, but there aren't a billion lawyers running around because the letter of the law is something that's arrived at lightly. The rule needed to cover any eventuality, and it didn't. 

There's something a bit unseemly about the Rangers trying to get something as a result of Cherepanov's death, but what are they supposed to do? Cherepanov was a crucial building block for their future, and his loss hurts the franchise, just as the failure to sign a first-round pick would hurt the franchise. It's Glen Sather's job to look out for that future, stop laughing Rangers fans, and the least he could do was ask for consideration. 

Clearly the other NHL teams felt that they could find themselves in similar situations, especially since the KHL, Russia's league, came down harshly on Cherepanov's team for the way they responded when he collapsed on the bench. Those teams all have players in the pipeline who play outside the U.S. and Canada, and obviously they would have all wanted exactly what the Rangers did if the same thing happened to them. 

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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