NHL teams look to restrict blogger access in certain locker room situations

This is an issue that might only be relevant to a small segment of readers out there (likely the ones who have their own blogs), but it’s been the talk of the Virtual Hockey Town this morning so I thought it would be prudent to pass along the story.

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski discussed the fact that the NHL might change its policies when it comes to the kind of locker room access bloggers receive. Here is an excerpt from that in-depth piece.

Credentialed bloggers usually enjoy the same access as a newspaper or radio reporter on a game night: a seat in the press box, fresh popcorn and access to the teams’ dressing rooms for postgame interviews. They cover the game, pass information to their audience, and have done so for the last several years without many incidents of unprofessional behavior, despite approaching the coverage from a fan’s perspective.

Yet several prominent NHL franchises, including the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers, have strict “no blogger” policies in their arenas. They don’t see them as working journalists, and they certainly don’t see a need for them to have access to cramped locker rooms after the game.

On Monday, these teams emphatically voiced those concerns during an annual preseason conference call between NHL executives and team media-relations directors. Their issue: If my team doesn’t credential bloggers in its home arena, why should bloggers haves access to my team’s locker room on the road?

In essence, these teams wish to see bloggers become a second-class citizenry in the press box: Given a ‘B-grade’ credential that allows them on press row and in the home-team dressing room, but prohibits them from interacting with players from the visiting team if that team has a policy against alt-media access.

Again, I know for most of you, this issue comes down to “pulling back the curtain” or navel gazing. Feel free to scroll down from this article if means nothing to you.

Moving on, earning credentials – and thus dealing with NHL teams – has been a big issue for hockey bloggers as they’ve grown in prominence over the last few years.

On one hand, many teams might be justified in giving a prominent blogger access because of the increase in publicity that could come with it. This is especially justified with teams who lack a palpable buzz (like the New York Islanders and their “Blog Box” concept) or a standard major newspaper beat writer. One of the reasons hockey blogs are successful is because they fill a need that isn’t being met thanks to struggling print operations.

That being said, NHL teams cannot be totally guilty when they give a pause. As Wyshysnki wrote, it’s true that the “no accountability” talk is going by the wayside as big blogs are being tied to corporate entities more and more, but there certainly is more mystery with bloggers. After all, with a beat reporter, you can call upon his or her editor to bring the hammer down. Blogs often range in professional aims so wildly that it’s often difficult to identify the chain of command.

(Not to mention the fact that many bloggers bring a sardonic, satirical approach to hockey that understandably makes some teams nervous.)

There isn’t really a “one size fits all” answer to this issue, which is why the NHL allowed case-by-case decisions of access. It’s a shame that some NHL teams are so adamant when it comes to restricting bloggers, but ultimately its their right to choose who can and cannot gain access to their players and other employees.

Still, blogs aren’t going to disappear even if their access is restricted, especially since “blog” is such a vague term that could describe any number of endeavors. Naturally, I’m in favor of bloggers gaining as much access as possible, but that doesn’t mean I think the league is crazy for being reluctant to allow more than their comfortable with. It will take time for bloggers to become a part of the “mainstream” and I, for one, think that isn’t strictly a bad thing.

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    Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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    David Poile got some work done Saturday.

    The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

    The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

    They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

    This is likely among the reasons why.

    Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

    With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

    He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

    The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

    Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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    The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

    Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

    Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

    A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

    Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

    While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

    “We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

    Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

    One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

    Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley

    Predators sign Arvidsson to seven-year, $29.75 million deal

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    Viktor Arvidsson has cashed in on his impressive, breakout 2016-17 campaign.

    Playing in the final year of his entry-level contract — and making $640,000 in total salary, according to CapFriendly — the 5-foot-9 tall Arvidsson erupted for 31 goals and 61 points playing on the top line last season for a Nashville Predators team that eventually made its way to the Stanley Cup Final.

    The two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday.

    From The Tennessean:

    Viktor Arvidsson received a new contract Saturday befitting a breakout star, with the Predators signing the energetic forward to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract, Arvidsson’s agent told The Tennessean. 

    Few unheralded NHL players last season surprised more than Arvidsson. Expected to be a secondary contributor, Arvidsson erupted offensively with 31 goals and 61 points as part of Nashville’s top line, tying for the team lead in each category. 

    Update: The Predators have since confirmed the deal, which pays Arvidsson an annual average value of $4.25 million per season, through the 2023-24 season.

    Nashville’s general manager David Poile has work remaining this offseason. The Predators still have restricted free agents Ryan Johansen — another member of that vaunted top line in Nashville — and Austin Watson left to get under contract.

    Watson and the Predators have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday. Watson is reportedly seeking $1.4 million in arbitration.

    Flames re-sign RFA goalies Gillies and Rittich

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    The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalies Jon Gillies and David Rittich to one-year, two-way contracts, the club announced Saturday.

    Both spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League, but did get in some game action with the big club in Calgary. The 23-year-old Gillies, the Flames’ third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 39 games with the Stockton Heat, posting a .910 save percentage.

    He then made his first career NHL start on April 6 against the L.A. Kings and stopped 27 of 28 shots faced for the win. He then began the playoffs as Calgary’s back-up because of an injury to Chad Johnson.

    Rittich made his debut two days later, allowing one goal on 10 shots in 20 minutes of ice time versus San Jose.

    The Flames have already taken care of their goaltending situation at the NHL level for next season, bringing in Mike Smith from Arizona and Eddie Lack from Carolina.