There's a rule in the NHL that says teams unable to sign their first-round draft picks are granted a compensatory selection if those players are eligible to re-enter the draft or become an unrestricted free agent. The Rangers are using that rule to demand a compensatory selection in place of Alexei Cherepanov, the 2006 first-round pick who died during a game in Russia earlier this season.
The Rangers argue that, because of the language in the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Players Associtation, Cherepanov is technically able to be drafted again in the 2009 Draft.
"If an unsigned player sustained a massive injury on or off the ice, the drafting team would get a compensatory pick," Assistant GM Cam Hope said. "We believe that the letter of the law applies in this case, but even if there is a disagreement on that, it's clear that the spirit of the law applies."
It may seem as if the Rangers are trying to capitalize on a tragedy, but their argument about a massive, but not fatal, injury has currency. Such a player would obviously be a free agent and/or able to be drafted. Obviously there's not much chance of it happening, but there's nothing in the rule about likelihood, just eligibility. To a team, there's not much difference to a team if a player is paralyzed or dead. Neither one is going to be playing any games in the future so there shouldn't be any difference in the way compensation is decided.
The league and the NHLPA need to rectify the agreement to take this unlikely occurrance into account going forward. A player who dies shouldn't be used as an asset, but, until the change is made, the Rangers would be doing the team a disservice if they didn't try to get the compensatory selection.