Gary Bettman: NHL has "been extremely proactive"

bettman.jpgDavid
Haugh of the Chicago Tribune
was able to score a fairly lengthy
interview with NHL commissioner, asking him a number of questions
pertaining to the recent rule changes, suspensions and the future of the
NHL. Here are some highlights of what he had to say.

The
rash of nasty incidents since the Olympics had to factor into the NHL’s
decision Thursday to toughen its policy on review and discipline of
“lateral, back-pressure or blind-side” hits, especially to the head,
right?

Was it the post Olympics activity that caused this? No.
We’ve been extremely proactive on the issue of injuries in general and
concussions in particular going back to 1997. We were the first pro
sports league to do baseline testing, used as a diagnostic tool for
return-to-play decisions. Over the past year, we’ve had a group of
medical professionals looking at the videotape of 199 recent
concussions. We have constantly taken steps to do anything possible to
protect our players.

I’d like to just say here that
the NHL is far from proactive on these issues, especially when it comes
to punitive measures for illegal hits. This past week’s kneejerk
reaction and attempt to pass a new rule that was in direct response to a
rash of what should be illegal hits is the very definition of reactive.
If the NHL is so intent on being ‘proactive’ then the league should
have addressed all hits to the head two years ago.

More after the
jump.

Did the fact that Ovechkin is a superstar
affect the length of his
suspension?

No. Your history as a player and the number of times you’ve been
involved in an incident may, but no. The Ovechkin play, he was suspended
for being careless and reckless, not for doing anything malicious. The
fact is, when you look at lots of hockey plays, that was a hockey play. I
don’t think he was going out of his way to try and hurt Brian.

I
don’t think I’ve ever actually agreed with Bettman on something,
completely. The suspension was completely warranted based on Ovechkin’s
history and the play in question. It wasn’t an overtly dirty hit, just a
reckless one.

The issue is that while his star
status might not have come into play here, there’s no doubt that the NHL
has gained a reputation for coddling star players when it comes to
punishment. Maybe a form of a standardized punishment system would work,
which would fall under that ‘proactive’ approach Bettman is so certain
the NHL is using.

Bettman would also go on to talk about how great the Coyotes have
done this season, and the possibilities of Jerry Reinsdorf as a
potential owner. He also says the Chicago national anthem tradition is
far from unpatriotic, and says the NHL is far from making a decision on
the league’s involvement in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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    Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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    Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

    Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

    The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

    For example…

    Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

    Their production together can not be understated.

    Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

    What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

    While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

    Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

    He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

    Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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    Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

    The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

    Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

    If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

    Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

    The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

    ‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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    Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

    Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

    In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

    While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

    In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

    No word yet on financials for either guy.

    Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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    Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

    Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

    The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

    Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.