Self-writing joke: NHL sees legal costs and Bettman's salary climb to new heights

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garybettman3.jpgWe all know that the NHL is one of the more curious professional sports leagues to keep track of when it comes to how they spend their money, where it goes and who is getting what. After all, they’re penciled in as the #4 sport when compared with the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball. The Sports Business Journal’s Tripp Mickle today discussed the NHL’s 2008-2009 tax filing showing where the NHL saw their expenses going during that season.

The NHL’s legal costs climbed 48.6 percent during the 2008-09 season, according to its most recent tax filing.

The filing shows the NHL’s legal fees climbed to $3.94 million that season. The NHL declined to comment on the filing, and it remains unclear what contributed to the cost increase.

The tax filings cover the fiscal year July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, a period that saw the NHL conclude a lawsuit with Madison Square Garden over the New York Rangers’ digital rights and begin a bankruptcy trial over the Phoenix Coyotes.

If the league saw their fees increase in a year where the only thing they were really up to was fighting with the New York Rangers over their website, it should be fun to see what happens when the report comes out about what they spent taking BlackBerry guru Jim Balsillie and deposed Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes to court over trying to sell and move the Coyotes out of Arizona.

The other fun note from the league’s taxes is what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is now being paid to run the league. Get your jokes ready kids.

Commissioner Gary Bettman saw his total compensation increase 1.7 percent to $7.23 million in 2008-09. His base compensation totaled $5,529,491 million, other compensation $956,515, deferred compensation $700,000 and benefits $44,777.

The package continues the escalation of Bettman’s compensation, which has nearly doubled from his pre-lockout compensation of $3.77 million. During that same period, the league saw its revenue increase from $2.2 billion to more than $2.6 billion.

The fun part here is that now every average NHL player has a minimum number to want to ask for. After all, if the commissioner can be average at his job and make $7.23 million, a fourth-line grinder should too, right? I’m not going to be the guy to come out and yell about anyone’s salary but I think if my name was Gob Bluth from Arrested Development my only reaction would be, “COME ON!”

As for a list NHL players that will  make more next season than Commissioner Bettman, buckle up. Note, these numbers are what they’ll actually make next year, not what their cap hit is. As always, thanks to CapGeek.com for keeping track of all this information.

Zdeno Chara – $7.5 million

Eric Staal – $7.5 million

Duncan Keith – $8 million

Marian Hossa – $7.9 million

Rick Nash – $7.5 million

Brad Richards – $7.8 million

Henrik Zetterberg – $7.75 million

Scott Gomez – $8 million

Chris Drury – $8 million

Henrik Lundqvist – $7.75 million

Marian Gaborik – $7.5 million

Jason Spezza – $8 million

Chris Pronger – $7.6 million

Evgeni Malkin – $9 million

Sidney Crosby – $9 million

Dany Heatley – $8 million

Vincent Lecavalier – $10 million

Alexander Ovechkin – $9 million

That’s it. 18 players make more than the league commissioner. It may very well become 19 players if/when Ilya Kovalchuk signs on with someone, so this is subject to slight change. All this tells us, though, is that it’s good to be the king.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

Highlight of the night:

What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

Factoid of the night:

It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

Scores:

Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

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It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Canucks defeat the Sabres, as the losing continues in Buffalo

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The Buffalo Sabres remain stuck on just a single win to begin the season. Jack Eichel is sick of losing, but the losing continues.

Returning home from a four-game road trip out west, the Sabres had an opportunity ahead of them to get back into the win column. The Vancouver Canucks, hardly a powerhouse in any way, were in town. They had played — and lost — the night before in Boston. And then the Sabres went out and were thoroughly outplayed in a 4-2 loss that, one could argue, flattered the hosts.

They weren’t able to take advantage of an early lead after Justin Bailey was allowed access to the net off the rush. They couldn’t hold the lead after Eichel dangled Ben Hutton and then scored on a shot Jacob Markstrom should’ve stopped. They gave up yet another short-handed goal, putting that number at six for the Sabres just eight games into the season.

Instead, Buffalo spent most of the night in its own end, giving up 37 shots through two periods. Hard to pin this, in any way, on goalie Chad Johnson.

“First of all, I thought we didn’t defend well and close quick enough in our defensive zone. We were a little bit slow there tonight. We need to be more aggressive and on the puck,” said head coach Phil Housley after the game.

While the Sabres were badly outplayed, one of the deciding moments in this game was a controversial video review in the second period. Vancouver took the lead on a goal from Daniel Sedin, although Housley challenged for a potential offside after it looked like Jake Virtanen didn’t have control of the puck as he entered the zone.

The linesmen looked over the play for a lengthy review before officials came to the conclusion that Virtanen did have control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line. The goal stood and the Canucks controlled the remainder of the game.

“I disagree with the call, totally,” said Housley. “In my opinion, he knocks the puck out of the air. He never has possession.

“But I call that 10 out of 10 times offside and I would continue to challenge that again.”

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Roberto Luongo leaves game with apparent injury, as Panthers fall to Penguins

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The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Making matters worse was the fact their goalie Roberto Luongo left the game in the third period with an apparent hand injury.

The injury occurred after a collision in the crease with Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Luongo immediately went down to the ice in pain. A replay from above the net showed Luongo’s right hand getting caught in an awkward position against the post after coming into contact with Sheary as he cut through in front of the crease in pursuit of the puck.

The injury forced James Reimer off the bench and into the game with the Panthers trailing by a goal. MacKenzie Weegar tied the game for Florida before Sheary scored the eventual winner about eight minutes later, on a night when the Penguins fired 48 shots on the two Panthers goalies.

Luongo gave up three goals on 36 shots before leaving the game. The Panthers now head out on the road. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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