Jason Spezza and the Senators get on the same page after rumor-filled summer

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GYI0060050577-spezza-fiume-getty.jpgThe weird and wild summer of Jason Spezza that saw him go from potentially wanting to be out of Ottawa after some rough handling at the hands of Senators fans to saying that he loves Ottawa and never wanted to be dealt has finally been squared away. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun tells us that Spezza and Sens GM Bryan Murray have aired their grievances and Ottawa’s own version of Festivus can finally be over.

“We had a really good meeting in the middle of the summer,” Murray said Saturday. “We had a real good discussion and maybe there was a little bit of exaggeration on my part when I made a couple of comments that he wanted out.

“He just wants, like a lot of players, to be important and to feel that we understand what he wants to be (during) his career and what he’s capable of being. We’ve got a guy who is committed to the Ottawa Senators.”

Murray said Spezza doesn’t have to be superhuman.

“We need him to be Jason Spezza,” said Murray. “The ability level that this guy has is pretty high in comparison to a lot of players in the league. We just want him to be that.

It’s great that both sides have finally put their differences aside and have avoided having another potentially ugly Dany Heatley like scenario unfold in Ottawa, but you can’t help but wonder if maybe Spezza’s mental mettle isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

If you want to read between the lines a bit, Murray’s words are rather curious considering his statement about how much Spezza wants to “feel important” to the team. After all, Spezza is the team’s first line center and he’s generally the guy setting up Daniel Alfredsson. Perhaps Mike Fisher’s breakout-like season got to his ego because Fisher became a bit of a fan favorite in Ottawa and not just because he’s got a famous girlfriend. It’s all crazy and speculative but something worth keeping an eye on with expectations being a bit higher now for the Senators after finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference last year.

(Photo: Greg Fiume – Getty Images)

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?