NHL, NHLPA discuss adding cocaine to list of banned substances

Ian Denomme
Bill Daly and Donald Fehr. (Getty Images)

On the heels of two high-profile arrests, and an acknowledgement that recreational drugs are increasing in popularity, the NHL and NHL Players Association have reportedly begun talks aimed at adding cocaine to the league’s list of banned substances.

The report from TSN’s Rick Westhead said the NHL is acknowledging and trying to address increased use of cocaine among its players. In April, former Kings, now Rangers, center Jarret Stoll was arrested in Las Vegas for cocaine possession. He pleaded to two misdemeanor charges in June and signed with the Rangers in August. In April 2014, former Lightning left winger Ryan Malone was arrested for DUI and possession of cocaine. He was not convicted.

In the TSN story, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly admits they are seeing increased use of “party drugs.”

“The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they’re going up,” Daly told TSN in an interview. “I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis in any sense. What I’d say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and you’ve hit a cycle where it’s an ‘in’ drug again.

“I’d be shocked if we’re talking about a couple dozen guys. I don’t want to be naïve here … but if we’re talking more than 20 guys I’d be shocked. Because we don’t test in a comprehensive way, I can’t say.”

More comprehensive testing may be on the way, but adding testing for cocaine would be a collective bargaining issue. Under the current program, players are tested at least twice throughout the season for performance-enhancing drugs, and 60 players are tested during the off-season. Only one-third of all the samples are also tested for drugs like cocaine.

Westhead reported that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr held close-door meetings with several NHL teams last year to discuss increased cocaine use, and will continue to do so this year.

Blackhawks, NHL caught in the middle of bizarre Patrick Kane situation

Ken Campbell
Patrick Kane (left) and Jonathan Toews (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

When Patrick Kane showed up at the Chicago Blackhawks training camp last week, a heated debate began immediately concerning whether or not he should be there.

Those saying Kane had every right to be with his teammates argued that he had not been charged with any crime and deserved the same rights as any other person in any other line of work who faced the same circumstances. Hard to argue with that. After all, the presumption of innocence is one of the underpinnings of any criminal justice system.

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What’s holding up Stamkos and Kopitar extensions? The ‘R’ word

Anze Kopitar  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

If you’re Steve Yzerman, you should have had Steven Stamkos signed to an eight-year contract extension more than a month ago. Same goes for Dean Lombardi and his dealings with Anze Kopitar. It’s simple really. These guys are franchise players. Sign them at the going rate for the maximum number of years and get rid of the distraction.

After all, that’s what Stan Bowman did last summer and he killed two potential headaches with one Aspirin. Faced with a similar situation with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks GM needed exactly eight days to get his two stars signed to identical eight-year deals worth $84 million. Cap hits of $10.5 million per times two represented a bold move, but in reality, the Blackhawks got themselves a deal. Had Toews and Kane played out the final seasons of their contracts and gone on the open market separately, they would have cashed in even more. Read more

How advanced stats are changing NHL contract negotiations

Justin Williams. (Getty Images)

It started like any contract negotiation. 
Agent Allan Walsh, who represents Jonathan Drouin, David Perron and Antoine Vermette, among many others, sat across from an NHL GM and assistant GM. The group was hammering out a deal for one of Walsh’s clients. They spent 45 minutes discussing staple statistics like points per game, goals, assists and ice time. Walsh, though, wasn’t satisfied. He told the executives they were omitting a crucial criterion.

It just so happened, Walsh explained to them, the player in question was tops on the team in almost every major possession metric, including Corsi and Fenwick. Walsh had his own advanced stat booklet prepared. He fished out two copies.

“I saw them open the first page, and I saw the GM and the assistant GM lock eyes with each other,” Walsh said. “And the look on their faces was, ‘Oh s—, he knows.’ ”

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Chris Pronger deal another example of NHL salary cap follies

Chris Pronger (Getty Images)

FORT LAUDERDALE – All right, let’s see if we have this straight. If the Arizona Coyotes can somehow keep their disputed lease in effect, the good people of Glendale will be giving money to a team that is paying a guy $575,000 to not play for them and another guy making $3 million who will actually play for them. That will cost them $3.6 million total, a little more than the $3.2 million they were paying to the guy they traded away, who will likely get paid by his new team to not play for it. The guy making $575,000, by the way, will likely be elected into the Hall of Fame in a couple of days and he now works for the league, while still being paid by the teams who are paying him to not play for them.

Only in the NHL. Shortly after the draft wrapped up Saturday, the Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes consummated a convoluted trade that saw defenseman Nicklas Grossmann head to the desert in exchange for Sam Gagner and the rights to Chris Pronger. The reason for the deal? The Coyotes will gain $1.5 million to help them get up to the salary floor, since Pronger’s deal is for $575,000 each of the next two seasons in real money and $4.94 million against the cap, and the Flyers will get some relief at the upper level. Pronger will also become the first player in history to be taken off the league’s long-term injury list without actually being activated.

Carry on, then.

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Doom & gloom for the Blackhawks after this year? Not so fast, cynics

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The deeper the Chicago Blackhawks move into the NHL playoffs, the more I see people preparing requiems for their glory days. At the same time respect is paid to the franchise’s numerous achievements in the now decade-long salary cap era, the notion is floated that, once the cap’s constrictions begin suffocating the Hawks this summer, they’ll rapidly be downgraded from a majestic, soaring beast to a Tweety Bird in a cage, swinging around in mediocrity like so many of the league’s teams.

And maybe that’s what will happen in the coming years. Maybe. But perhaps there’s a chance the Blackhawks do what they did the last time the cap forced them into making major changes to the roster. You know – continue being a Stanley Cup frontrunner for the foreseeable future. Read more

Union president undeterred by Washington bill making WHL players amateurs

Ken Campbell
Jerry Dias  (David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The president of Canada’s largest public sector trade union, one that is attempting to get junior hockey players unionized, called the recent bill in Washington State rendering WHL players as amateur athletes and not employees “ridiculous,” and claimed it will not deter efforts to give major junior players collective bargaining rights in Canada.

“Obviously I can’t do anything in Canada, but I’m disappointed by it,” said Jerry Dias, president of Unifor. “But that’s not going to stop what it is we’re doing here in Canada. There’s no question the case here in Canada is significantly stronger. We think we’re in very good shape here in Canada.”

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Vincent Lecavalier’s washout in Philly should (but won’t) make NHL teams wary of lengthy contracts for thirtysomethings

Adam Proteau
Vincent Lecavalier (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Just two years into a five-year, $22.5-million contract, Vincent Lecavalier’s days with the Flyers appear to be numbered. There may be a chance he’ll stick around if Craig Berube – Philly’s head coach, with whom Lecavalier is at loggerheads with over his role – is shown the door in the off-season, but there’s also a chance both could be gone by the time training camp arrives.

With the 34-year-old Lecavalier struggling to put up points – his offensive production of eight goals and 20 points is down nearly 50 percent from 2013-14, when he posted 20 goals and 37 points – the Flyers will almost certainly find it difficult to trade him this summer and may have no choice but to buy him out of the final three years of the deal. That will leave Philadelphia with a salary cap hit of be $2.889 million in 2015-16 and 2016-17, $2.389 million in 2017-18 and $889,000 each season beginning in the fall of 2018 and running until the summer of 2021. That’s a at least a decent roster player (if not two) every season the franchise will have to do without, because management decided to use a good deal of their cap space on a big name strictly because he was a big name. For a fleeting moment, it boosted the Flyers’ pride to say they outbid everyone else for Lecavalier, but it didn’t take long at all for reality to intrude on them and paint a more stark picture of what they could expect for him.

Lecavalier’s saga in Orange & Black should give all teams pause to think twice about signing veteran NHL stars in their thirties to long-term pacts, but experience tells us it won’t. Read more