This week’s NHL GM meetings yielded chatter on everything from blueline cameras to goalie equipment, but the sexiest news nugget had to be the NHL revealing an outline for an expansion draft format.
While nothing is set in stone until the NHL Players’ Association agrees on the details, we have a rough idea of how the process would work. As reported by TSN’s Frank Seravalli, each of the existing NHL teams would stand to lose one player if the league expands by one team and two if the league expands to include Las Vegas and Quebec City. Teams can protect (a) seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or (b) eight skaters at any position and one goaltender.
First-and second-year players on entry-level contracts would be exempt from the expansion draft. It remains to be seen if no-movement clauses would give veterans automatic amnesty. Every team would have to expose at least 25 percent of its salary cap, while the expansion squad(s) would have to reach a salary floor. Hello, high-profile money dumps. That situation would grant existing NHL teams the equivalent of compliance buyouts – especially if no-movement clauses are nullified.
Commissioner Gary Bettman indicated at his All-Star Game press conference the earliest we could see an expansion team is the 2017-18 season. So if we assume the league announces one team by then, what players might we see changing addresses at a 2017 expansion draft, which would likely be held after the Stanley Cup final and before the entry draft?
Time to examine potential targets. I won’t include any players who will be unrestricted free agents in summer 2016 or summer 2017. I’ll list more than 23 names, just to deeper explore candidates to get claimed. It’s difficult to imagine players with no-movement clauses will be ruled exempt, because, if they didn’t have to count toward a team’s protected list, too few quality players would be available to the expansion squad. A team loaded with clauses, like the Tampa Bay Lightning, would have most of its roster exempt and still have room to protect most of its other players. Also, as my colleague Ian Denomme pointed out, players with NTCs and NMCs tend to be expensive, so exempting them would make it harder for teams to clear 25 percent of their salary. So, for the sake of argument, let’s look at two groups: the players with clauses and the players without. Cap hits for 2017-18 are included for each name, courtesy of capfriendly.com.
By Dan Marrazza
When we last saw Kevin Westgarth in the NHL, he was playing out the string of the 2013-14 season with the Calgary Flames, about to become just another enforcer fazed out of the game.
It didn’t garner any fanfare or attention, and occurred with not a question about concussions, headshots or the role of fighting in today’s game, but Westgarth has quietly slipped back into the NHL. He returned to the league in early February, when he was hired by the NHL league office in the role of Vice President Business Development and International Affairs, reporting to deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
Westgarth, a well-read Princeton graduate who built his relationship with his current boss on the other side of the table during lockout negotiations, will work with many of the NHL’s charitable and humanitarian initiatives, while leading campaigns to expand the sport overseas.
There was a time when, if you made $1 million in a season as a hockey player, you were living on Easy Street.
It was almost like winning a lottery.
That is not the case these days.
Earning $1 million a season is still big bucks and affords an athlete a comfortable lifestyle others can only dream of. However, if you aren’t careful with your pennies, the dollars definitely don’t take care of themselves. And it is definitely not a lottery win.
“If you win a lottery in Canada, it is tax free so it is a true $1 million dollars,” said Rand Simon, a Toronto-based player agent with Newport Sports Management Inc. “Depending on your age and where you live it could set you up for quite a while. A million dollars in Toronto is very different from a million dollars in North Bay or somewhere in rural Saskatchewan. It all depends on context. It is the same thing with hockey players; a million dollars in one place is not the same as a million dollars somewhere else because of taxes and the cost of living.”
In his ruling upholding Dennis Wideman’s 20-game suspension for physical abuse of an official, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did not mince words. Not one little bit. Not only did he not accept the NHL Players’ Association’s notion that Wideman’s actions were the result of the effects of a concussion, but he crushed it, cast it aside and argued it basically had no shred of validity.
In a 22-page explanation of his ruling that made for compelling reading, Bettman made it clear that he agreed with the suspension that was brought down by senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell. In fact, he made it clear that rescinding or reducing the suspension was not even considered. In fact, Bettman said he believed Wideman acted out of character – but was not impaired – and that was the main factor that deterred him from imposing a suspension that was even longer.
Gary Bettman’s reign as NHL commissioner appears as though it will continue on into the next decade.
According to a report from Hall of Fame scribe Michael Farber, Bettman has signed a contract extension that will keep him in his current post through 2022.
Bettman has been commissioner of the NHL since Feb. 1, 1993 when he was hired from the National Basketball Association. Bettman was the NBA’s senior vice-president and general counsel before moving over to the NHL. He became the league’s first commissioner after replacing Gil Stein, who was its last president.
Should Bettman fulfill the terms of his extension, he would rank as one of the longest-serving first-in-commands in professional sports history.
His new deal takes him months shy of his 30th anniversary as commissioner. Sportsnet’s John Shannon notes that NHL president Clarence Campbell worked one year longer. Bettman’s former NBA boss David Stern was commissioner for exactly 30 years when he stepped down in February 2014.
Under Bettman’s watch, the NHL has expanded to 30 teams from 24 and more could be on the way. The league is reviewing applications for new franchises in Las Vegas and Quebec City, although he noted repeatedly Saturday there is no timeline on a decision. NHL players have also participated in the Olympics since 1998 and outdoor games went from a trial event to becoming commonplace.
However, he has governed during three lockouts, including the one that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. The NHL and NHLPA both have the option of opting out of the current collective bargaining agreement before the start of the 2019-20 season.
NHLers spend most of their youth climbing the ranks, making sacrifices and pushing themselves to the limit just for a shot at the big time. When they finally get there, the reward is the opportunity to play in the best league on the planet – and to get paid handsomely for it. But holding onto that money isn’t always easy, which is where professionals such as Roman Fradkin come in.
A wealth advisor with RBC Dominion Securities in Winnipeg, Fradkin works with around 20 NHLers, including Jonathan Bernier, Dale Weise and Alexander Burmistrov. His mission is to make players see the light when it comes to saving and investing the right way, because a pro athletes’ earning window may be lucrative, but it’s also small. “You’ve got six or seven years to make 50 years worth of money,” Fradkin said.
If the Los Angeles Kings are betting on Vincent Lecavalier’s sense of integrity and his word, and they are, then they’re betting on the right guy. Lecavalier’s all-world talents have declined to be sure, but one thing that has not is his reputation of being a man of his word and an all-round stand-up person.
So when Lecavalier assured the Los Angeles Kings that he would retire after this season, thereby making it possible for the Kings to acquire him and defenseman Luke Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday, that was obviously good enough for the Kings. Because the fact is, Lecavalier could throw this entire thing off the rails by waking up tomorrow morning or any other between now and the end of this season and decide he actually wants to keep playing beyond this season and there’s not a thing the Kings or Flyers could do about it.
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.