Deadline Chaos: League Takes Control of Jackalopes After Vetoing Trades

Typically, at the trading deadline, the highlight is the big deals that have been made, as teams pick up the missing pieces for a playoff run.  This season in the SHL, however, the story was the deals that weren’t made, as the league took the unprecedented step of vetoing a pair of trades by the Dakota Jackalopes, leading to a chaotic series of events that ended with the league taking control of the franchise.

The Jackalopes’ financial problems have been an open secret around the league for several years.  They play in the smallest market in the league, and their attendance has dwindled considerably as the team’s record has declined; as a result, the team has traded away almost all of its high-salary players.  Rumors have periodically swirled that Dakota cannot make payroll or is on the verge of folding.  Jackalopes officials have consistently denied rumors false.

But at Wednesday’s trading deadline, Dakota struck a pair of deals moving their highest-salary players remaining.  One deal sent LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, the team’s longtime star, to the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for LW Veikko Sikanen and a 1st-round draft pick.  The other sent RW Arkady Golynin to the Hershey Bliss in exchange for C Yegor Nestorov and a 1st-round pick.

Several teams, including the Jackalopes, have made salary-shedding trades in the past.  But this pair of deals raised a red flag with the league office.  Dakota’s total payroll is just $15.3 million – already the league’s lowest – and the combined salaries of Airston and Golynin are nearly half that total.  In addition, both deals reported involved millions in cash being sent to the Jackalopes; this kind of direct cash transfer has never happened before in the SHL.

“As a rule, I’m very reluctant to get involved made between consenting teams,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell.  “But when a team cuts its payroll to the point that it they can’t ice a competitive squad, that’s a problem.  If a team essentially tells its fanbase that it’s not going to even try to compete, that’s a problem.”

The Jackalopes, as well as their trading partners, reacted to the vetoed deals with outrage.

“We don’t think the league has any business getting involved in our deals,” said Jackalopes GM Paul Mindegaard.  “We’ve made no secret of the fact that we’re in a rebuilding phase, and for the league to step in and prevent us from acquiring assets, well, that’s hurting our ability to compete in the long term.”

“From our perspective, [the veto] really wrecked our shot at completing a deadline deal,” said Bliss GM Scott Lawrence. “We had a deal that both sides agreed to, that gave our team the upgrade we needed.  Then suddenly, we find out the deal’s a no-go, and we don’t have time before the deadline to execute a Plan B.  So that really kneecapped us.”

“Acquiring Ryan would have been a game-changer for us,” said Smoke GM Garth Melvin.  “We were excited, our fans were excited, and we felt like we had the firepower to be competitive in the West.  But the league ripped that away from us, and it really feels unfair.”

The players involved weren’t too happy either.  “Honestly, I’ve got whiplash from the whole thing,” said Airston.  “I’ve played my whole career here, and I signed an extension this off-season because I wanted to stay.  Then with no warning, I’m gone.  And then I’m not.  And now I’m here, wondering if the team can afford to pay me for the rest of the season.”

Mindegaard and owner Roger Scott argued that the Jackalopes needed to make the deals for financial reasons.  They argued that without the payroll savings and the cash payments, they would not be able to make payroll at month’s end.  This led the league to take a closer look at the team’s financial situation, and by week’s end, they had taken control of the franchise from Scott.

“Obviously, this is not a situation we wanted to find ourselves in,” said Commissioner Mitchell.  “But it was clear after examining the books that the Dakota franchise was at a very real risk of folding in midseason, so we had to act.”

The commissioner said that the league would plan to sell the team to another owner after the season.  He added that the team would almost certainly be moved to another city, but that they will finish the season in Dakota.

2020 SHL Week 5 Transactions

  • On Wednesday, the Washington Galaxy placed D Grant Warriner on the injured list.  Warriner suffered an upper-body injury late in the second period of Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Michigan and did not return.  He is expected to be sidelined for about 3 weeks.  The team did not make a corresponding move at the time.
  • On Friday, the Dakota Jackalopes placed RW Arkady Golynin on the injured list.  During Thursday’s game against New York, Golynin crumpled to the ice after a late-game knee-on-knee collision with Night D Dominic Sanchez, a hit that resulted in a one-game suspension for Sanchez.  Golynin will miss at least a couple of weeks with the injury.  This could be a serious blow to the Jackalopes, as the winger led the team in points with 18 and was second in goals with 6 at the time the injury occurred.  To fill Golynin’s roster spot, the Jackalopes promoted RW Dylan Alizarin from their CHL affiliate in Idaho.
  • Also on Friday, the Jackalopes’ affiliate in Idaho activated D Georg Ochre from the injured list.  Ochre was sidelined for almost 3 weeks with an upper-body injury.  To accommodate Ochre’s returned to the roster, Idaho released D Gerry Michaud from his temporary deal with the organization.  Michaud appeared in 4 games for Idaho and did not record a point, although he did have 5 blocks.

Interview of the Week: Arkady Golynin

This week’s interview is with Dakota Jackalopes RW Arkady Golynin.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with one of the SHL’s brightest young scoring prospects, Arkady Golynin of the Dakota Jackalopes.  Arkady, thanks for speaking with us.

Arkady Golynin

Arkady Golynin: It is a great honor.  Thank you very much.

SHLD: You’re not a household name, but with the way you’ve been playing, you might be on your way to becoming one.  Last season, in your rookie year, you broke out with 23 goals.  This year, you’re on pace to match that mark. What’s the secret to your success?

AG: I have a good shot.  When I was a boy, I drew a box on the side of my house.  Every day I practiced shots at the box.  Aim for this corner, that corner, in the five-hole.  After many years, I got it so that I could make my shots with my eyes closed.  Now when I am on the ice, in the middle of a big game, I just pretend I am looking at the box.

SHLD: A born shooter like you must really enjoy playing for a team like Dakota, which is geared toward offense.

AG: Yes, I like it very much.  To me, this is the heart of hockey: speed and skill.  Close timing, skillful passes.  It is a ballet on skates, and it is beautiful.

SHLD: Obviously, other teams in the league have a very different philosophy, teams like Michigan and Quebec.

AG: Yes, their style is heavy and hard.  Hard hits, blood on the ice.  I think it is ugly, but I know it is Canadian and American style.  In Russia, we grew up on the game of Tarasov, Tretiak, like that.  Very fluid and beautiful.

SHLD: You are one of the smaller players in the league at only 5’7″.  Some of the league’s harder-hitting defensemen have targeted you because of your size, figuring they can push you around.

AG: Yes, but they are slow and I can skate around them! (laughs)

SHLD: So you don’t find that your size is a challenge when playing hockey at the highest level?

AG: No, I do not.  In the end, it is the skill that makes the player, not the height.  Would I like to be a tall man like Jumbo Joe [Freedlander]?  Maybe it would be nice, especially when dealing with ladies.  But for hockey, I am happy to be just as I am.

SHLD: Let’s talk about the Jackalopes for a moment.  Despite playing in a beautiful style, as you put it, you haven’t been able to keep up with the division powers in Michigan and Anchorage.  What do you think has held you back from greater success?

AG: It is difficult for me to say.  But I think one important thing is that those teams, they can dictate their type of play.  Michigan likes to slow it down, and it is very hard to prevent that.  Anchorage is faster, but they are very smart with possession; they control the ice.

SHLD: There’s some talk about Dakota rebuilding this offseason.  Are you worried what might happen to the team in the future?

AG: I have many friends on the team, and I will be said if they are not around anymore.  But I am sure we will still have many good players, and we will still be a good team.

SHLD: One last question.  You’ve been in Dakota for almost two years now.  Have you ever seen a jackalope?

AG: (laughs) When I was a rookie, some of the older guys on the team took me and the other rookie out to the Badlands to go on a jackalope hunt.  They sent us rookies out ahead to do “scouting,” while they went back to Wall Drug and had some beers.  I never saw a jackalopes, but I saw a snake.  I do not get along with snakes at all.  When I saw him, I think I ran all the way out of the Badlands by myself.

SHLD: Sounds like quite the adventure!  Well, thank you for your time, Arkady, and best of luck.

AG: This was a fun talk.  I hope we can do it again.