Bettman denies refusing second Kovalchuk contract, KHL offer remains on the table

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovalchukhighfive.jpgThe main rule from now on when it comes to dealing with Ilya Kovalchuk and his ongoing saga with the New Jersey Devils is to expect nothing and to be ready for everything. Today proved to be ripe with information surrounding the league apparently shooting down the framework to a second contract between Kovalchuk and the Devils. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about the truth to that and he opted to play semantics with ESPN’s Scott Burnside instead.

“In order for a contract to be rejected, there would have to be a signed contract submitted,” Bettman said Wednesday after addressing the World Hockey Summit. “There has not been a signed contract submitted.”

But Bettman did not dispute that there has likely been ongoing dialogue between the Devils and the league over what might be allowed under the salary cap.

“I don’t know if there has been such cap advice, what the specifics of it might be, and I wouldn’t comment on it anyway because that’s a dialogue we regularly have with our clubs,” Bettman said.

When it comes to matters like these, Gary Bettman is like a real-life genie. If you’re not asking him the question you want the answer to in the correct way in order to elicit the answer you’re looking for, you’re not going to get any of the information you’re looking for. Thankfully we don’t need to rub a magic lamp to make him appear in order to ask him these questions.

Of course, all this sort of bluster does is open the door for KHL president Alexander Medvedev to once again proclaim his league’s apparent open-door policy for Ilya Kovalchuk. Lucky for us, Medvedev is also in Toronto for the World Hockey Summit and happily shared his stance with the media as The Sporting News’ Craig Custance shares.

On Wednesday, while in Toronto for the World Hockey Summit, Medvedev said he received a call from Kovalchuk’s agent and planned on calling him back after meeting with reporters.

“It could be big news,” he joked.

But he’s seriously hopeful Kovalchuk will end up playing in his league, especially in light of reports that the league rejected the latest Kovalchuk proposal from the Devils.

“I just got today in the morning that the new draft of the contract was rejected. Ilya knows that our proposal is still on the table,” Medvedev said.

It must be nice to have that kind of opportunity open to you if things get too screwed up in the league you really want to play in. Yes, Kovalchuk absolutely wants to be in the NHL and the threat of the KHL “swooping in to steal him” is nothing but idle chatter from folks eager to create drama.

As for NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, he’s preaching the company line about adhering to the rules handed down by systems arbitrator Richard Bloch.

“Obviously he’s a great player and we want him playing in the National Hockey League and I believe he wants to play in the National Hockey League,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “Having said that, I think it’s very, very important to protect our rules and to make decisions based on our rules and if it means losing a player, I’d rather protect our rules than make an exception for an exceptional player.”

All we’ve got out of all this is a public relations fiasco of the highest order. If the NHLPA were a tougher union, it’s possible that this whole circus isn’t going on but that’s an awfully large straw-man kind of argument. The fact remains that there’s no real blueprint for how Kovalchuk, his agent Jay Grossman, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek should be approaching this situation. Doing things the way the league wants it done means that the Devils blow up their team to fit Kovalchuk under the cap and doing things the Devils way is apparently the complete wrong way to do things.

The saga continues.

Scroll Down For:

    Boeser channels Bure, leads NHL rookie scoring

    Getty Images
    5 Comments

    Brock Boeser has no intentions of letting Clayton Keller or Mathew Barzal walk away with the Calder Trophy.

    Boeser, 20, has been lights out over the past four games for the Vancouver Canucks, scoring six times during his current four-game goal-scoring streak (he also has points in five straight) as Keller’s stock has cooled.

    The Arizona Coyotes 19-year-old rookie has failed to score in each of his past eight games after a blistering start that saw him score 11 times in 16 contests.

    Keller’s slump has allowed Boeser to grab hold of the rookie scoring lead, which he did on Wednesday, scoring twice — the second time he’s done so in as many games — in a 5-2 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    He’s now one point ahead of Keller and Barzal, the latter of which is heating up as well with points in his past four games.

    As you can see by the above video, Boeser’s release puts his name on a pedestal with few others in the NHL. The Athletic’s Justin Bourne wrote glowingly of Boeser’s shot ability on Wednesday.

    Don’t see the Alex Ovechkin or Patrik Laine in that shot? Here’s more proof:

    Boeser’s scoring prowess has him in the conversation with another talented Russian in Pavel Bure.

    Bure, who won the Calder Trophy in 1992, scored 34 times for the Canucks that season. Boeser is on pace to hit the 40-goal mark, which would smash that record.

    Boeser is the first rookie to score in four consecutive games this season. According to the NHL, only one rookie in Canucks franchise history has scored in more than four consecutive team games – Dennis Ververgaert had a six-game goal streak in 1973-74.

    Boeser is scoring on nearly 21 percent of his shots, and while TSN’s Scott Cullen points out that that number isn’t likely to hold, his 2.8 shots per game are still very much conducive to goal scoring.

    And winning. Boeser has three game-winning goals for the Canucks, who are 11-8-3 this season, two points out of first place in the Pacific Division in the Western Conference.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck


    Free falling: Flyers lose sixth straight as growing pains emerge

    Getty Images
    7 Comments

    The Philadelphia Flyers feel they are right there, which is an interesting statement from a team that’s lost six straight and eight of their past 10.

    Ah, the lies we tell ourselves in times of trouble.

    The Flyers did fair better on Wednesday night in a 4-3 shootout loss against the New York Islanders, which prompted goaltender Brian Elliott to make the declaration that his team just needs to turn the corner.

    It’s tough to turn when you’re falling backwards, however.

    Indeed, finding positives when few appear to be in sight in a skid like the Flyers are in is a tough ask in the City of Brotherly Love. Flyers fans have had to come to terms with a few things this season.

    It must pain fans to see Brayden Schenn lighting the lamp over and over again in St. Louis. Schenn was traded to the Blues in the offseason. The return looked half decent for a team looking to rebuild with a youth movement.

    The Blues gave up two first-round picks for Schenn along with Jori Lehtera. And while it remains to be seen what the Flyers gain from the trade in future drafts, Lehtera has been an utter disappointment, one magnified many times more by Schenn’s incredible start.

    Lehtera was a healthy scratch for Wednesday’s game, the second time in his past four games he’s watched rather than played. He’s sitting on two assists this season in 14 games. Schenn, by comparison, 10 goals and 30 points, including 19 in his past eight games.

    It hasn’t been all Lehtera’s fault. Oh, no.

    The Flyers penalty kill has been atrocious. They rank 28th in the league at 75 percent and have allowed seven goals in their past 13 kills over the past three games.

    Andrew MacDonald can’t return soon enough, especially after one of their better penalty killers tried to behead a man last week.

    Scoring could be better as well.

    Claude Giroux has gone six games without a goal, this after scoring nine times in his first 16 games. Jordan Weal has just one goal in his past 18 games and was bumped to the fourth line on Wednesday. And ever since he 17 times in 64 games two years ago, Shayne Gostisbehere has only eight goals in his past 95 games and none in his past 13.

    Ivan Provorov has been a godsend for the Flyers on defence (and Travis Sanheim is starting to blossom), but Gostisbehere’s offensive prowess from the backend would be a welcomed addition again.

    But the real reason for the Flyers struggles this season might just be something they can’t control: youth.

    The Flyers iced 11 players under 25 years of age on Wednesday night. Their top defenseman, Provorov, is 20 years old. Their second line centre, Nolan Patrick, is 19.

    These are the growing pains of a team getting younger, and it could get worse yet before it gets better.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    While Turris continues to roll, Duchene still stuck in first gear

    Associated Press
    4 Comments

    Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, sometimes it isn’t.

    The two focal points of the biggest trade this season so far in the National Hockey League find themselves on opposite sides of the old expression.

    On the ‘grass isn’t’ side, we find Matt Duchene, now an Ottawa Senators player after getting shipped to Canada’s capital from the Colorado Avalanche in a three-team deal (that also included the Nashville Predators, but more on that in a moment) earlier this month.

    Duchene, unhappy in the Colorado Rockies, has now gone six games without a point in his new threads.

    On the ‘greener side,’ we find Kyle Turris, now a member of the Nashville Predators, who was shipped out of Canada’s capital after contract negotiations between his former team, the Senators, “did not see the light at the end of the tunnel.” 

    Unlike Duchene, (his trade partner?) Turris has found new life in Music City. In six games, Turris has two goals and three assists and scored this five-hole goal on Wednesday to help the Predators get past the struggling Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the shootout.

    Turris’ arrival on the Predators’ second line has been of great assistance to 21-year-old forward Kevin Fiala as well.

    Fiala has six points, including two multi-point outings, since Turris arrived on Nov. 5 and is well on his way to eclipsing his rookie season point total of 16 last year with two goals and 11 assists in 20 games this season.

    It was no secret the Senators wanted Duchene, badly, in the days leading up to the deal that finally got done. Turris and the Sens couldn’t reach an agreement on an extension and thus the 28-year-old became expendable. The results thus far, at least on the scoresheet, haven’t matched the steep price required to get Duchene.

    But it’s not all bad. Some consolation for Sens fans:

    And it’s not to say results won’t come.

    Duchene has 23 shots in those six games. There would be more concern if he wasn’t getting chances.

    An immediate winner in any high-profile swap is always hotly debated. Turris has had a strong start in Nashville, but he went to a team that is a few months removed from being in the Stanley Cup Finals and are looking like strong contenders once again.

    Duchene is a highly-skilled player who scored 30 goals two years ago. The chemistry with Bobby Ryan just hasn’t blossomed just yet. Give it time.

    The thing about trades is this: a clear-cut winner is often never determined a few weeks after the deal is made.

    Duchene summed it up rather succinctly on Tuesday in the Ottawa Sun:

    “I’ve said it many times, a season is full of peaks and valleys and 10 games from now, we could be having a totally different conversation.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Golden Knights can’t stop, won’t stop

    Getty Images
    5 Comments

    There may not be a more intriguing story in the NHL this year than what is going on in Sin City.

    Defying all the odds, the Vegas Golden Knights — a team comprised of spare parts that general manager George McPhee picked out of a discard bin this past summer — sit on top of the Pacific Division at Thanksgiving after a 4-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

    The league-wide off day due to the holiday should give you enough time to come to the realization that yes, indeed, your eyes are not deceiving you.

    Instead, the NHL has a brand new team that continues to re-write hockey history.

    The Golden Knights matched an NHL record for most wins by a team through the first 20 games of its inaugural season on Wednesday, moving to 13-6-1 on the year.

    They became the first expansion team to start a season 3-0-0 and first to win their first six of seven back in October. On Nov. 4, they tied a league record for shortest number of games played to achieve nine wins an inaugural season and continue to do things no other expansion team has done.

    How a team full of players not good enough to be protected prior to the expansion draft is doing so well is anyone’s guess.

    Chip on their collective shoulders? Perhaps. A little Las Vegas magic? Quite possible.

    What is certain is that the Golden Knights have little trouble scoring. And scoring helps with winning.

    James Neal, a former 40-goal man, leads the way with 11 goals. Only Filip Forsberg on the Nashville Predators, Neal’s former team, has as many. William Karlsson is second with 10. No one on his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, has reached double digits yet.

    David Perron, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Erik Haula aren’t far behind with six goals apiece, and Vegas is eighth in expected goals for percentage.

    The math adds up to show the Golden Knights tied for fourth in goals for with 72. They’re also in the top third when it comes to least goals against, a remarkable feat given that they’ve had to dig deep — really deep — into their stable of goaltenders thanks to injury.

    Furthermore, If the playoffs were determined by possession metrics and began tomorrow, the Golden Knights would be one of the 16 headed to the promised land.

    Maybe Vegas just likes to win. And really, what do they have to lose?


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck