It’s still to be determined whether the domestic assault trial for Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov will begin as scheduled Monday or be delayed by a week, and even if Voynov is found guilty, nobody seems certain when he’ll be able to play again.
As GMs are scouring the league for the final available talent before Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, Voynov is expected to be in court for the first day of what is expected to be a five-day trial on a felony count of corporal injury to a spouse with great bodily injury. But there may be a delay in the proceedings by a week, owing to the fact that deputy district attorney Frank Dunnick lobbied during a pre-trial conference this week to have the trial delayed by one week because he is working on another case.
Voynov’s lawyer, Craig Renetzky, opposes the delay of the trial and said via Twitter that the defense team will be ready to go Monday morning. That defense team also includes co-counsel Pamela Mackey, who successfully defended Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant in his sexual assault case in 2003.
The final decision on the trial date will be announced Monday, but the sentiment in Los Angeles seems to be that it will begin a week later. There is a provision in the California penal code that sex crimes and domestic violence cases can be extended by 10 days if the assigned prosecutor is engaged in another matter.
Regardless of when the trial begins and ends, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that Voynov will not be immediately reinstated from his indefinite suspension even if he is found not guilty and will remain suspended until the league completes its own investigation into the matter.
“Mr. Voynov’s ongoing legal process is separate and distinct from the process the League has to go through to determine his playing status,” Daly said in an email to thn.com. “Therefore, the conclusion of the former may impact on, but won’t determine the latter. In short, the Player’s status will remain status quo until we have had an adequate opportunity to complete our process, evaluate the relevant facts and circumstances, and make an appropriate determination.”
The NHL suspended Voynov indefinitely after an Oct. 20 incident that led to him being was arrested. Police allege that Voynov punched, choked and kicked his wife, Marta Varlamova, during an incident at their Redondo Beach home. Varlamova has since said the incident was an accident.
It appears that the league has the collective bargaining agreement on its side if it does decided to extend Voynov’s suspension beyond his trial. Voynov was suspended with pay under Section 18-A.5 of the collective bargaining agreement, which provides that, during a criminal investigation, “The League may suspend the Player pending the League’s formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the Player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.”
If the NHL does decide to extend Voynov's suspension after a not guilty verdict, the NHLPA would be able to appeal to an independent arbitrator to have him immediately reinstated. The NHLPA declined to comment when asked whether it would file an appeal on a not guilty outcome.
This all leaves the Kings in a certain amount of limbo, since if Voynov is reinstated this season, they will have to make room for him and his $4.2 million cap hit after the trade deadline has passed. The Kings, who bolstered their defense corps by trading for Andrej Sekera, have been getting salary cap relief from the NHL since late November.