Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.
If the Colorado Avalanche and defenseman Tyson Barrie don’t come to an agreement on a contract before Sunday 3 p.m., Barrie will represent the only one of 25 players in the arbitration process this summer whose case actually went the distance.
A total of 24 players, including Barrie, filed for arbitration, while the Detroit Red Wings took goalie Petr Mrazek to arbitration. The 24 other cases all ended in a contract resolution, the last of which was Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Martin Marincin, who was scheduled to have his hearing Monday. Marincin, however, signed a two-year deal with the Maple Leafs on Friday worth $1.25 million per season.
Shortly after receiving a letter from Sen. Richard Blumenthal to address “the safety of your sport,” and the possible connection between concussions chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seemed very eager to respond. “Senator Blumenthal doesn’t have his facts straight,” Bettman said at the time, “and we’ll use this as an opportunity to explain to him why he’s so misinformed.”
And in true Bettman fashion, the commissioner did exactly that by sending Blumenthal a 24-page response recently that reiterated in crystal clear language his continued denial of a link between concussions and CTE. And again in true Bettman form, he got directly to the heart of the matter. In fact, the second sentence basically sums up the tone of the entire letter. It reads: “We very much appreciate this opportunity to share with you important information on these topics, particularly because we are concerned that some of your questions in your letter appear to be premised on misconceptions that have been repeatedly promoted in the media by the plaintiffs’ counsel who are presently pursuing concussion-related litigation against the NHL.”
It should really come as no surprise that of the 25 players who were slated to go to salary arbitration this summer, none has actually sat in front of the arbitrator and 22 of them have resulted in contract resolutions. That’s pretty much the standard these days.
And it should also come as no surprise if the remaining three are resolved well in advance of their hearings. Well, except Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche, largely because we have no idea what Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are thinking these days. He actually might end up going. He’s slated for Thursday. (Martin Marincin of the Toronto Maple Leafs is scheduled for Aug. 2 and Michael Stone of the Arizona Coyotes is on the docket for Aug. 4.)
When the NHL announced last fall its seven-year partnership that will see adidas become its official outfitter starting next season, your trusty correspondent asked commissioner Gary Bettman whether the deal would be extended by a year if there were another labor dispute. Bettman responded with a one-word answer.
“Really?” Bettman asked, with a good amount of offense and incredulity. Well, about as much offense and incredulity as someone who has shut down the game three times in the past 20 years could muster.
From their days together as roommates at boarding school in Saskatchewan to winning a Memorial Cup together in Rimouski to a Stanley Cup in Tampa and signing contracts later in their careers that didn’t quite work out as well as everyone had hoped, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier have had almost parallel tracks when it comes to their hockey careers.
So it is only fitting that they would retire from the NHL in the same year and maybe, just maybe, enter the Hall of Fame together in the fall of 2019. The call on both players will be a vexing decision for the Hall of Fame selection committee. To be sure, there are players who are inferior to both Richards and Lecavalier and accomplished less in the NHL than they did who are in, but induction into the Hall seems to be something of a moving target that is unpredictable.
Richards and Lecavalier had very good NHL careers. But were they truly great, Hall of Fame careers? It’s debatable, which makes things really interesting. Let’s take a look at both players:
To hear Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello tell it, Auston Matthews was always going to get signed, always going to get the bonuses that were coming to him. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
Yes, it took a little longer than usual, but an entry-level contract with Matthews was announced Tuesday, 27 days after he was selected first overall. There had been an enormous amount of consternation about whether or not the Leafs and Matthews were at loggerheads about entry-level bonus money. During his many days with the New Jersey Devils, Lamoriello had a policy of not giving them to anyone. He also had a policy of no beards for anyone in the organization and everyone in the office had to wear a tie even in the summer, but it looks like Lamoriello is changing with the times.
Some things in life are not terribly fair. And in the case of the P.K. Subban trade, much of the trade has become a referendum on the merits of Shea Weber. Last I checked, Weber didn’t ask to be traded to one of the most hockey-mad cities on the planet for a player who was universally loved by its fan base. And former Canadiens analytics consultant Matt Pfeffer, whose comments to thn.com about Weber have landed him in the crosshairs of critics, doesn’t deserve to be put through the wringer the way he has.
I feel badly about the latter. Pfeffer is a 21-year-old who is a bright, hard-working kid who’s doing some groundbreaking work when it comes to analytics. We had a very candid conversation Friday afternoon about the Weber trade, perhaps in retrospect for him, a little too candid. He spoke about the trade of course, but also the place of analytics in the game and how hockey is still finding its way. But the comment that seems to be drawing the most ire was when he said: “There’s nothing wrong with being average in the NHL. An average NHLer is worth a heck of a lot and that’s what Shea Weber is.”
Matt Pfeffer had made peace with the fact that the Montreal Canadiens were going to trade star defenseman P.K. Subban. But he didn’t think dealing Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber was a good idea and he made his feelings known to Canadiens management. But Pfeffer is not convinced that is why his contract as an analytics consultant with the Canadiens was not renewed.
“They didn’t tell me it was over that,” Pfeffer told thn.com. “But I guess everyone knows now where I stood on the Subban-Weber trade. There are times when there’s some possibility that there would be another side to the argument, but this was one of those things where it was so, so far outside what could be considered reasonable. I made a pretty strong case, but I made the case that the analytics made. This wasn’t a personal thing.”