Tampering is a bad word in sports circles.   Teams are expected to honour each other’s player and coaching  contracts whether signed in North America or elsewhere.
Last summer Bob Hartley signed a two year contract with the Zurich Lions of the Swiss National Hockey League. It will expire in April of 2013.  Zurich expects Hartley, the Canadiens or any other hockey club to respect it.  Any team looking to bring Hartley back to North America before then has to first get permission to negotiate with Hartley and then deal with compensation issues.   Failure to do so would wind up in the hands of the International Ice Hockey Federation.  According to Lions CEO and general manager Peter Zahner,  “The Canadiens have never contacted us to inquire about hiring Bob.”

Zurich Head Coach Bob Hartley Celebrates Swiss Championship

So, while everyone outside of the Canadiens front office has annointed Hartley as the next Canadiens head coach, the Habs have not so much as made a phone call.  That doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, just that it hasn’t happened yet. As Zahner told a Swiss newspaper, ” If they want, nothing prevents us from talking.”  The fact that Marc Bergevin has not dropped a dime tells us that:  a) he has no interest in signing Hartley or, b) he’s still very early in his evaluation process and he’ll get around to it in due time.

Publically SC Zurich is sticking by their guns.  Hartley won Zurich a championship.  Privately, they know it’s counterproductive to keep anyone on a team who doesn’t want to be there.  There’s probably some kind of deal that could be worked out.   The Canadiens definitely don’t want to get into a pitched legal battle.
European hockey has had it’s fill of carpetbagging coaches and players who arrive as mercenaries and break contracts in order to return to North America at the drop of an extra dollar.  Hartley had a chance to coach another Swiss team three years ago.  That deal fell through when he demanded a clause in the contract stipulating he could jump back to the NHL the moment he received an offer.  (The very fact that he asked for the clause tells you as much as you need to know about Hartley’s commitment)
So, a year later after four years of hockey unemployment,  Hartley finally signed a Zurich contract in which the so-called “exit clause” was conspicuously absent.   And that’s where we stand now.
The Canadiens still haven’t asked for permission to talk to Hartley and Zahner told the Journal de Montreal on Monday, “If the Habs name their head coach tomorrow, it won’t be Bob Hartley.”
About the 2011-2012  Zurich Lions season
Under Hartley the Lions  lost their first seven home games of the season and wound up seventh in the final league standings.  In the playoffs they reached the final but trailed Bern 3-1 before coming back to force a seventh game in Bern.  Zurich’s Steve McCarthy, the former Atlanta Thrasher,  scored with 2.5 seconds left in regulation time to break a 1-1 tie for the league championship.