Joffrey Lupul made waves on Instagram on Sunday when he answered a fan who was curious about his return to the Toronto Maple Leafs roster and eventually to playing again in the NHL. The veteran forward has been injured since February of 2016 and failed numerous physicals which have kept him out of the lineup. Meanwhile, the Leafs have been saving $5.25 million per year on their salary cap by placing the forward on long-term injury reserve (LTIR). It is all well within the rules of NHL bylaws unless it is deemed the player is, in fact, healthy.
Lupul's message on social media seems to claim that he is.
“Lupul posted a photo of himself snowboarding to his verified Instagram account Sunday night, prompting one of his followers to inquire about his supposed failed physical. In response, Lupul wrote, “Haha [sic] failed physical? They cheat, everyone lets them.” He also responded to another comment about when he’d be playing in the NHL again with, “I’m ready…just awaiting the call.”
The Lupul situation has been weird since the beginning. This piece fills in some details https://t.co/I04T6ueWCF— James Mirtle (@mirtle) September 18, 2017
Darren Dreger is reporting that when he reached out to the NHL for a statement, the response was swift but not informative. The NHL and Bill Daley would not comment only saying. “We aren’t in a position to comment right now. That may or may not change when we know more.”
Where this all gets interesting is if it is deemed the Leafs were falsifying physicals and Lupul has been ready to play hockey. The Leafs are a team that spends money up to the NHL salary cap almost every year, and with some young forwards earning some hefty raises, the money saved by keeping Lupul on LTIR gives them flexibility.
It is uncertain what the next steps are, but a big part of how this turns out might be in determining what "healthy" means by NHL standards. Is Lupul's definition of healthy the same as the organization?
As of this writing, Lupul has yet to file a complaint, but Dreger went on to suggest the NHL PA is here for a situation like this. The only issue is there hasn't been a situation like this in the past, so it will be interesting to see how the NHL deals with this situation if Lupul pursues some kind of action.
The NHL does not look good when players come out and make these kinds of claims against their own organizations. It's especially tricky when the team in question is arguably the most popular team in the leauge.