|(above) Marc Cheverie will be a free agent after this season|
by Kevin Oklobzija
That Marc Cheverie finished his degree in finance at the University of Denver in just three years — while playing NCAA Division I hockey in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association — should tell you a little about how he approaches life.
So last season when an assistant coach at Denver, Derek Lalonde, told him an interesting aside concerning his future in pro hockey, Cheverie put his schooling to use. He quickly became an expert on the NHL's collective bargaining agreement.
And now, just one year into the pro hockey life, Cheverie's two-year contract with the Florida Panthers is about to expire.
Huh? He has played one season but his two-year contract is going to expire?
If you're confused, you should be. But knowledge of the rules allowed Cheverie to put himself in a good spot for negotiations — last spring and again this summer — with the team that drafted him, the Florida Panthers.
"I feel you have to know those things," Cheverie said after practice on Tuesday, when the Amerks tuned up for tonight's 7:05 home game against the Hamilton Bulldogs. "You have to treat yourself as an enterprise. It's just like goaltending; you have to be prepared and understand everything. You have to give anything your due diligence."
So now, after spending most of the season with the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones, the rookie goaltender is in the stretch run of his entry-level contract to show the Panthers and Rochester Americans what he can do.
"I didn't want to be one of those guys that gets buried early," said Cheverie, who posted his first American Hockey League victory in Sunday's 6-5 win at Hamilton.
That's why he did his CBA homework. As a 2006 draftee (seventh round, 193rd overall), the four-year college window on the CBA clock began ticking with the 2006-07 season. And because Cheverie was 23, had completed his degree and was ready to leave school last season, a loophole (since closed) put him in an envious bargaining position:
If he didn't like what the Panthers offered, he could become a free agent. Since he was coming off a terrific junior season (24 wins, 2.08 goals-against average, .932 save percentage), he had leverage.
"I think that sort of put the pressure on them to get me signed," said Cheverie, a native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
He agreed to the two-year contract on April 8, meaning the 2009-10 season could count as Year 1. That also meant he could get two years worth of signing bonus (at $85,000 per year, according to Capgeek.com) instead of just one.
That helped ease the pain of Denver's season-ending defeat, a 2-1 semifinal loss to Rochester Institute of Technology in the NCAA East Regional.
"It's definitely a sore subject," he said with a tiny smile, "but I think it's good for their program. I'm not ashamed at all that we lost to them.
"We didn't take RIT lightly. They had a game plan and we had a game plan. I remember the goals they scored vividly (the first by Chris Tanev, the second by Cameron Burt). They were probably the only two mistakes we made all game and they were two big mistakes."
Cheverie has more recent goals to remember. The Bulldogs scored five against him on 43 shots on Sunday. The Amerks led 6-3 after two periods but were in scramble mode at the end.
"Afterward we said, 'Congratulations on your first American League win' and he said, 'That's not exactly how I had hoped it would go,'" Amerks coach Chuck Weber said.
"He had moments that were good and moments that were bad. The fifth goal (by Ian Schultz) was a wrister from outside the blue line. But he made one more save than their guys."
Cheverie has been with the Amerks since early February but he didn't make his first start until Saturday at Syracuse (three goals on 37 shots in a 3-2 loss).
He also got the start Sunday but Tyler Plante likely will be back in goal tonight.
"The more you play, the more comfortable you get," Cheverie said. "I know it's a journey. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I've had."