Per Nick Kyperos and Andy Strickland, the Predators apparently erred in some way, while tendering qualifying offers to Restricted Free Agents Sergei Kostitsyn, Cal O'Reilly, Matt Halischuk, Chris Mueller, Linus Klasen, Andreas Thuresson, and Nick Spaling.
Qualifying Offers for RFAs are simply proposed contract extensions, filed before a deadline (5:00 p.m. on Monday), that prevent the player from becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent. For Halischuk, Spaling, and Klasen who made under $1 million last season, a qualifying offer is a 5% raise. For Kostitsyn, Thuresson, Mueller and O'Reilly, who each made less than $660,000, a qualifying offer is a 10% raise.
There would be no reason for the Predators not to file qualifying offers on players they planned to bring back for next season. QO's prevent other teams from bidding on the player, allowing the Predators to sign said players to relatively risk free and inexpensive one-year contracts.
If the Predators did in fact make some error in filing their offers, the NHL Players Association can file a grievance, petitioning to make the players Unrestricted Free Agents. An independent arbitrator can then grant the NHLPA's wish and the players could sign elsewhere with the Preds' gaining no compensation.
A similar situation happened with the Blackhawks in 2009, when a few key RFA's failed to get their offers on time. From the Sun Times:
While Tallon acknowledged the team erred and reportedly told Canada's TSN all contract offers were postmarked June 29, the collective-bargaining agreement stipulates that qualifying offers are to be faxed or hand-delivered and not mailed.
Fearing the NHLPA would win its case against them, Chicago GM Dale Tallon moved quickly to sign all his players, most notably Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker to 3-year $9.25 million contracts. Each player made probably much more than they would've, had the process run its natural course. Stan Bowman would also end up trading both players (and their contracts). Minnesota is currently in the process of buying out the last year of Barker's deal.
For the Predators, the biggest potential problem here is losing Kostitsyn. On the heels of a breakout 50-point season, SK74 and his agent have a lot of incentive to hit the open market, where some teams could likely offer some outrageous contracts to the 24-year-old winger.
O'Reilly, because of his injury, and Spaling and Halischuk, because of their specialized roles, might have more incentive to stay in Nashville.
UPDATE (Dirk): Here's a little detail on how qualifying offers are supposed to work...
Article 10.2 (ii) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement covers Restricted Free Agents, and notes the following (bold is mine):
In order to receive a Right of First Refusal or Draft Choice Compensation (at the Prior Club's option) with respect to a Restricted Free Agent, the Prior Club of a Restricted Free Agent must tender to the Player, no later than 5:00 p.m. New York Time on the later of June 25 or the first Monday after the Entry Draft...
then later on:
A Qualifying Offer will be deemed to have met the above requirements if the Prior Club timely provides the Player a completed copy of the notice attached as Exhibit 19 hereto, in accordance with Exhibit 3 hereto.
Exhibit 19 is the standard form for a Qualifying Offer, but Exhibit 3 outlines exactly how these offers are to be delivered. This, from the "To a Player" section of Exhibit 3, which applies here based on the excerpted text from Article 10 above:
During the Playing Season, a Player shall receive notice(s) from his Club via hand delivery. From the day after the conclusion of a Player's Playing Season until the commencement of the Player's subsequent Playing Season, notice(s) shall be sent via overnight delivery to the Player's off-season address which the Player provides to the Club, and if no such address is provided by the Player, the notice(s) shall be sent via overnight delivery to the Player's last known address.
Then, further down:
If no method of service is specified in this Agreement, service of the required notice shall be effectuated by either facsimile transmission or overnight mail delivery by an established nation-wide delivery service (e.g., FedEx, Overnite, Airborne, etc.)...
So here's the question - did the Preds send out those QO's on Monday afternoon, for overnight delivery? That would seem, to me, to indicate that the player would receive the offer Tuesday morning, which is too late according to what I'm reading.
Stay tuned for further details as they develop!
UPDATE #2 (Dirk): I have received confirmation from the NHLPA that they are reviewing the matter. At issue is whether the players received the offers by the stipulated deadline.
UPDATE #3 (Dirk): The Predators forwarded the following statement from the league. Note, however, that the NHLPA can still file a grievance if they find otherwise. Until they sign off, I'd consider the issue still open. When the Blackhawks ran into this problem in 2009, the NHLPA didn't file a grievance until about a week later.
"We are not aware of any defects relating to Qualifying Offers tendered by the Nashville Predators to certain of the team's players as several media outlets are reporting. Those players, having timely received Qualifying Offers, will be Restricted Free Agents as of July 1, and both the players and the team will be accorded the various rights and benefits of Restricted Free Agency as are set forth in CBA."
UPDATE #4 (Dirk): Yup, the NHLPA has filed their grievance. Strap yourselves in.
UPDATE #5 (Dirk): Bob McKenzie reports that the arbitration hearing to sort this all out will take place on July 8.