NHL officially investigating mega-contracts of Hossa, Savard, Pronger and Luongo

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for prongervshossa.jpgThe fallout from yesterday’s ruling in the Ilya Kovalchuk contract grievance case which nixed his monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils is that, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, it gave the NHL the opportunity to look into other contracts to see if, perhaps, they too could be ruled to be guilty of cap circumvention. While Vancouver GM Mike Gillis reported that the NHL is, indeed, looking into the Canucks’ deal with goalie Roberto Luongo, folks were wondering who else, if anyone else, would potentially get the NHL sniffing around at their ludicrous contracts as well.

As it turns out, a few teams are going to have to sweat things out the rest of the summer and not just because of the weather.

NHL senior vice president of public relations Gary Meagher confirmed Tuesday that the league continues to look at the front-loaded, long-term contracts of Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and Boston Bruins center Marc Savard.

“I’m not sure ‘investigation’ is the right word,” Meagher said. “We’re looking at them.”

Arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld the NHL’s right to reject the 17-year, $102 million contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils, and ESPN The Magazine senior writer E.J. Hradek cited a high-ranking NHL official on Monday saying the league continues to investigate the other four.

In Bloch’s ruling was a footnote stating the other four contracts “are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration.”

Hoo boy. And you thought the fun ended yesterday with Kovalchuk’s deal getting shot down. As it is, some teams are speaking out about and recognizing that yes, indeed, they are being investigated. Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli fessed up that they’re looking a bit closer at the details of Marc Savard’s contract extension that he signed in December.

“We are cooperating fully with the League in its investigation of the Marc Savard contract extension. The League informed us upon their registration of the contract on December 1, 2009 that they would be investigating the circumstances surrounding this contract. From that point on, they commenced their investigation and it has been ongoing since then. On August 4th, I met with two League appointed lawyers as part of the investigation. We will continue to cooperate with the League in any future investigative proceedings if necessary and we will have no further comment on the matter at this time.”

What’s curious about what Chiarelli says here is the date he cited for when the NHL came calling: August 4th. Checking my calendar, yesterday was August 9th, so it’s clear the NHL had a good idea about how they thought Richard Bloch was going to rule on Kovalchuk’s contract. After all, why start sniffing around at other deals if you’re going to get shot down in arbitration.

As is typical of their organization, the Flyers are being a little less-than-helpful to the league regarding Chris Pronger’s contract and are instead arguing semantics about it as Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly shares.

On Monday, arbitrator Richard Bloch voided New Jersey’s contract with
Kovalchuk on the basis it circumvented the CBA. Furthermore, Bloch’s
ruling cited the Pronger deal – among others – as being equally
suspicious.

Suddenly, the Flyers are back on the radar because of Bloch.
 
“The
contract with Chris Pronger that we registered with the National Hockey
League is one we certainly feel was a compliant contract,” Flyers
president Peter Luukko said Tuesday afternoon.
 
“The Pronger contract is structured differently than the Kovalchuk contract. And it’s been in effect well over a year.”
 
Luukko had no further comment, nor did the NHL.

Where things get really curious in these matters is their investigation into Marian Hossa’s contract with Chicago. Of the other players mentioned that the league is looking into, Hossa is the only player out of the bunch to play any games with his team on that deal. The other players all signed extensions that have yet to kick in thus making Hossa’s story that much more dramatic, something the New York Post’s Larry Brooks was quick to jump on.

Hossa was in the lineup for 22 playoff games last spring. Presumably his presence affected the outcome of at least some Chicago victories. If the NHL is consistent and does move to prosecute the Blackhawks and Hossa, Bettman could vacate the title as if his league were the NCAA dealing with Reggie Bush and USC.

What a delightful can of worms this situation has potentially opened. While no one is sure if the NHL will pursue action against any of the teams and players involved with other questionable deals, the fact that they’re investigating is going to be a sore point and a tremendous distraction for teams, players and fans alike.

Yet again after a post season that excited new and old fans alike, the league and the players have found a way to take all discussion about the game completely off the table and turned everyone into learn-at-home lawyer on the fly just to try and have a discussion. Hockey fans talking about legal proceedings is the sort of summer discussion fodder the NHL should be trying to eliminate rather than stoke the fires of discussion about it.

Yet here we are talking about Richard Bloch’s skills as a playmaker from the law bench, Gary Bettman’s ability as an enforcer and the NHLPA getting beaten like a rented mule. Talk about a disheartening summer and the worst part still is that this is just the beginning.

Chara ‘more than likely’ to return from six-game absence tonight

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 7: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins skates towards the face-off circle during first period action against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 7, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Bruins captain Zdeno Chara hasn’t been in the lineup since Nov. 22, but that all changes tonight when he returns for a key date against the Panthers at TD Garden.

B’s head coach Claude Julien called it “more than likely probable” (per NHL.com) that Chara will play for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury six games ago. It’s a huge addition for a Boston defense that has been without its veteran leader and fellow vet John-Michael Liles, who is currently sidelined with a concussion.

As a result of those two injuries, Julien has been rolling with a six-man defensive unit comprised of Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo, Joe Morrow and Colin Miller.

Krug saw an upward spike in minutes as a result, and it helped him get his season on track offensively — he has seven points in his last eight games, this after going scoreless through the first nine contests of the year.

Carlo has been receiving big minutes as well. The rookie blueliner played over 24 minutes in back-to-back games against the Flyers and Lightning last week, then had 23:33 in Saturday’s win over Buffalo.

Chara had been averaging just under 23 minutes per prior to getting hurt, so it’s safe to assume Krug and Carlo will go back to more conventional TOI tonight.

Goalie nods: ‘He’s here, he’s able to play, he plays’ — Sens welcome Anderson back versus Pens

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates with Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators after the Senators scored against the Dallas Stars in the third period at American Airlines Center on November 24, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Craig Anderson, who left the Sens on Nov. 30 to be with his wife while she undergoes cancer treatment, returned to the club ahead of tonight’s game in Pittsburgh.

And even though Anderson’s backup, Mike Condon, is coming off a 24-save shutout of Florida, there was apparently no question about which goalie would face the Pens.

“He’s here,” Sens head coach Guy Boucher said of Anderson, per the club’s Twitter account. “He’s able to play, he plays.”

Anderson has been terrific this season, posting a 12-5-1 record with a .930 save percentage and 2.20 GAA. He was especially dialed in over his last five starts prior to departing, stopping 143 of 153 shots (a .935 save percentage, which “ballooned” mostly due to his final game, a 5-4 loss to Buffalo).

Condon, who had a brief stint in Pittsburgh this season before getting dealt to Ottawa, has performed admirably as well. He’s posted a pair of shutouts and boasts an impressive .946 save percentage on the year. That effort, combined with Anderson’s rock-solid play, has made Andrew Hammond the odd man out in Ottawa (The Hamburglar was reassigned to AHL Binghamton today).

Marc-Andre Fleury will get the nod for Pittsburgh. He’s riding a bit of a hot streak, having stopped 61 of his last 65 shots faced in consecutive victories.

Elsewhere…

— Good matchup in Boston, as Tuukka Rask and the B’s host Roberto Luongo and the Panthers. Rask currently sits third in the NHL with a .941 save percentage, while Luongo is 12th at .929.

Robin Lehner, who returned from a one-game absence to make 31 saves in a loss to Boston on Saturday, starts for the Sabres. The host Capitals will once again turn to their workhorse, Braden Holtby, who looks to snap a three-game losing streak.

— After Mike Smith made a career-high 58 saves in a shootout loss to the Jackets on Saturday, Louis Domingue gives him a breather as the two teams meet again tonight. Sergei Bobrovsky will be in for the Jackets, after Curtis McElhinney got the win over the weekend.

Canucks’ Dorsett to have neck surgery, reportedly done for season

Derek Dorsett, Kyle Brodziak
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The Vancouver Canucks will be without forward Derek Dorsett for a considerable while longer.

The Canucks announced today that Dorsett will undergo “cervical fusion surgery to repair disc degeneration in his neck.” The club expects him to “make a full recovery and return to play,” but no timeline could be provided at this point.

Dorsett’s surgery will be performed by Dr. Robert Watkins of the Marina Del Rey Hospital spine clinic in Los Angeles.

“The decision to perform surgery was made after a thorough review of our options, including non-surgical treatment and rehabilitation,” said GM Jim Benning in a release. “Derek, our Canucks medical team and Dr. [Robert] Watkins believe that surgery offers the best outcome both for his career and long-term health. Derek is an important member of our team and we are optimistic for a full recovery.”

Dorsett last played Nov. 17 against the Coyotes. He was forced to leave the game with what the Canucks called an upper-body injury.

The 29-year-old has one goal and three assists in 14 games this season. He still leads all Vancouver forwards with 35 hits and 33 PIM.

Dorsett is signed through 2018-19 for a cap hit of $2.65 million.

Update:

According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Dorsett will not be back this season. The hope now is for a return next season.

Coroner concludes Svatos died of drug overdose

DENVER - NOVEMBER 25:  Marek Svatos #40 of the Colorado Avalanche skates during the game against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center on November 25, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Former Avalanche forward Marek Svatos died early last month of a drug overdose, according to the coroner in Colorado.

The Denver Post is reporting that Svatos “had codeine, morphine and an anti-anxiety medication in his system when he died of combined drug intoxication.” The Douglas County coroner also concluded in its report that Svatos had a history of heroin abuse and depression.

“Drug paraphernalia was found at the scene,” the report said, per the Post.

Svatos was 34 when he died Nov. 5. He last played in the NHL for the Ottawa Senators in 2010-11, before finishing his career overseas.

As reported earlier by the Post, Svatos was living in the Denver area with his wife and two young sons.