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New York Rangers top draft pick Alexei Cherepanov died three weeks ago while playing a game in Russia. The Rangers, after initially mourning the death of their 19-year-old prospect, would now like to be compensated for his passing.
If that doesn't sound morbid enough, here's how Rangers assistant general manager Cam Hope explained his reasoning to the New York Post:
"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," Hope said. "We are not attempting to capitalize on a tragedy, but there would be no question regarding the Rangers' right to a compensatory pick if Cherepanov had been revived and survived the incident and were on life support."
Now I can almost understand Rangers president and general manager Glenn Sather putting in a discreet call to the league to ask if they had any case, but making this situation public is disgraceful.
Then again, this is typical of the NHL. The Rangers are in first place in the Eastern Conference with the second best record in the league, and what's the biggest story? The Rangers, the team with highest payroll, is trying to get compensation for a deceased player. If the league were smart, they would have addressed this situation and come to a conclusion before it became public, but then again, we all know that the NHL is far from smart.
"At this point, the league has taken no position on the Rangers' request," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Post. "The matter is in front of the league's general managers, who will address the subject at their next meeting in March."
Of course the league has no position, and of course they're going to let this mess drag on for another four months. We're talking about the NHL here; a league that televises its most important games on a network no one watches and stages its signature outdoor game on New Year's Day so it competes for attention with a dozen college bowl games.
If Cherepanov's story wasn't so sad, the league and the Rangers' handling of the situation would almost be funny. But unfortunately it comes off as just plain sick.
First of all, Hope should be ashamed for what he said to the Post, and he really needs to step back from inspecting the NHL rule book and inspect where his priorities are in life.
Saying that you should be compensated a draft pick because your previous pick tragically lost his life is bad enough, but saying that you should be compensated because that deceased player is technically eligible to be drafted again next year is reprehensible.
Is the cost of a team's self respect and dignity going for a second round pick these days?
Life is filled with tragedies and uncertainties that no one can ever plan for. Unfortunately for the NHL, the only certainty is that they'll always find a way to botch up a situation, even one as clear-cut as this.