• Amid all the unknowns of concussions, Gary Bettman acts like he knows everything

    Ken Campbell
    Ryan McDonagh  (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

    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.”

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  • Brian Elliott excited for full-time starting gig, ready to be ‘the rock’ for Flames

    Jared Clinton
    Brian Elliott (via Calgary Flames/NHL)

    Brian Elliott has never appeared in more than 55 games in an entire campaign, but after five stellar seasons, the Calgary Flames are finally giving him the opportunity to prove that he can be a true No. 1 netminder in the league. And Elliott couldn’t be more excited.

    During his Flames introductory press conference Wednesday, Elliott, 31, said that goaltenders want to be wanted, and it’s not hard to understand why he may have felt as though he was never meant to be anything more than a part-time starter in St. Louis. When the Flames sent a second- and conditional third-round pick to the Blues ahead of the draft to acquire Elliott, it made it clear that Calgary views Elliott as the full-time starter. It will be his first shot at the role, too.

    Though he spent the past five seasons as part of the Blues, the first three years in St. Louis were spent sharing the net with Jaroslav Halak. And when Elliott was finally starting to look like he could take the job from Halak on a nightly basis, the Blues dealt for Ryan Miller, who stayed no longer than one post-season run. Miller’s exit was followed by the emergence of Jake Allen and Elliott was again sharing starting duties. But while all of this was happening around him, Elliott continued to put up better numbers than any of his goaltending partners without being handed the full-time reins.

    “There’s only one net out there and both guys want to play,” Elliott said. “That’s what’s tough about trying to be a good partner and a good teammate when both guys want to be in the net. You don’t make it to this level without treating every practice, treating every workout, treating every game like a No. 1 goaltender. I like to say you’re selling yourself short if you’re just going out there to be a backup.

    “It’s something that I’ve worked hard for my whole career. Just to get that opportunity, that’s all you want. It’s what you do with that opportunity.” Read more

  • Lightning GM Yzerman not worried about getting deal done for Kucherov

    Jared Clinton
    Nikita Kucherov (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman isn’t worried about getting a deal done with restricted free agent Nikita Kucherov, even as he remains one of the final players the Lightning need to lock up as the off-season winds on.

    That should come as no surprise given Yzerman has taken care of every major situation the Lightning have had to deal with over the past season, including the trade request of Jonathan Drouin and the free agency of captain Steven Stamkos. That’s not to mention Yzerman made another move Tuesday to avoid arbitration with Vladislav Namestnikov, inking the 23-year-old to a two-year, $3.875-million deal.

    So panicking about not yet having Kucherov under contract? That’s not going to happen.

    “Every negotiation is different and some take longer than others,” Yzerman said, via the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith. “Sometimes they get done when they get done. You can’t force it.” Read more

  • Red Wings’ cap compliance trouble should be solved by Franzen, Vitale injuries

    Jared Clinton
    Johan Franzen (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Detroit Red Wings may be more than $4 million over the salary cap with the regular season approaching, but GM Ken Holland sees a clear path for the club to take to become salary cap compliant before the campaign begins. And it won’t even require a trade or demoting players to the AHL.

    After the signings of Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek, a combination of deals that accounts for a total of $9-million in cap hit this coming season and next, Detroit sits $4.24 million over the salary cap before the season is even set to begin. However, Holland said that neither Johan Franzen or Joe Vitale are expected to play this coming season, meaning both will assuredly be placed on long-term injured reserve.

    “Certainly we have no expectations that Franzen and Vitale are playing hockey this year,” Holland told MLive’s Brendan Savage. “I talked to Vitale after we traded (for) him. He’s having on-going issues with concussion. He certainly not expecting to be in camp. I’m not expecting to see Johan Franzen on the ice.”

    “I think realistically, when it’s all said and done, we’re probably a little over the cap. What’s a little? Probably a million dollars or just a little bit less over the cap if you don’t count Vitale and Franzen.” Read more

  • Bettman says link between concussions, CTE still unknown

    Jared Clinton
    Gary Bettman (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

    In a document filed in a United States District Court in Minneapolis, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has responded to questions about the connection between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE, by saying no clear link can yet be drawn between the two.

    The 24-page document from Bettman comes in response to questions submitted to him in June by Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. The questions ranged from asking Bettman about a potential link between CTE and hockey to inquiries about the league’s disciplinary process for players delivering headshots to other players.

    Bettman responded by saying that, at this point, researchers at Boston University’s CTE Center “admit that the study of CTE remains in its ‘infancy’,” and that the “relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown.” Read more

  • Down Goes Brown: Five blockbuster trades that almost happened

    Sean McIndoe
    Mark Messier and Brett Hull. (Getty Images)

    The 2016 offseason began with a bang, as two of the biggest trades in recent NHL history went down within minutes of each other on June 29. But since then, apart from the occasional move, the trade talk around the league has gone largely quiet.

    Or has it? After all, just because blockbuster deals aren’t being made doesn’t mean they’re not being discussed. Hockey history is filled with monster trades that almost happened and that we only find out about after the fact. We covered five of the biggest near-misses a year ago, with names like Steve Yzerman, Corey Perry, Pavel Datsyuk, and even P.K. Subban and Carey Price (in the same deal). Today, let’s look back at a few more.

    But first, the obvious disclaimer. While all of these deals were reported by reasonably trustworthy sources, we’ll never know how close they actually came to happening. When it comes to the “near” in near-miss, mileage may vary.

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  • Calle Jarnkrok’s six-year, $12-million deal with Predators is baffling after career year

    Jared Clinton
    Calle Jarnkrok (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Calle Jarnkrok is a young, versatile player coming off of a career-best 16-goal, 30-point season. He took a big step forward for the Predators in 2015-16 and was the sixth-highest scoring forward Nashville had in their lineup.

    So, when Jarnkrok elected to file for arbitration this off-season, it wouldn’t have been all that strange were he looking for a short-term deal that would give him the chance to prove himself and earn his big payday when he was up for free agency once again. Instead, he signed a six-year, $12-million contract that could prove to be an incredibly team-friendly deal in no time.

    But for as team-friendly as the deal is for the Predators, it’s equally as strange for Jarnkrok. Sure, he’s certain to have an NHL deal for the foreseeable future, but he may have greatly undervalued what he could be worth in only a few years’ time and given up potentially millions in salary. Read more