Turns out the NHLPA stood up for Devils regarding Kovalchuk punishment

nhlpa_logo_rgb.jpgI know what you’re thinking when you see the headline. “Oh hell no, not more of this stuff!”

That’s a fine, fair and normal reaction but for those of you thinking that the NHLPA rolled over when the NHL punished the New Jersey Devils for circumventing the salary cap on their first contract offer for Ilya Kovalchuk, you’d be dead wrong. At least according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks and his NHLPA sources you would be.

Slap Shots has been told that the delay of approximately 12 hours in finalizing the agreement reached in the early hours of Sept. 4 was caused by the union’s insistence that the Devils not be penalized with a loss of salary-cap space for having been found guilty of circumvention by arbitrator Richard Bloch on the first Kovalchuk contract submission.

The NHL, we’re told, finally yielded after it became clear that the union, protecting up to $3 million of New Jersey’s potential payroll, was not going to surrender on the issue.

Somehow we doubt that Lamoriello will be spending much time badmouthing Donald Fehr over the next two years.

Somehow we’re having a difficult time envisioning Gary Bettman re-appointing Lamoriello to the league’s negotiating committee during the next round of collective bargaining.

Standing up and fighting over this issue in particular turns out to be a huge win for the NHLPA. Losing $3 million in cap space would’ve changed the entire dynamic of the deal and would’ve served as a severe punishment for the Devils or any other team in the league that tried to do the same thing in the future.

While the Devils were already going to have to give up someone to get under the cap this year, picture them having to give up one or two more players to go along with that to make sure they could get Kovalchuk’s deal done. That would not be so pretty for the Devils nor effective for the union to sacrifice jobs like that to get contracts they want approved by the league.

Considering how late into the night they went to get the deal done, you can’t help but picture both sides sitting in a meeting having the world’s worst staring contest to settle things out. The league still got to punish the Devils, taking a third round pick from them and a future first round pick of the Devils’ choosing as well as a stiff fine, but considering how much tougher that fine could’ve been enforced, it’s a small, yet still noticeable, victory. They don’t all have to be big wins for the world’s shakiest union, but getting both the contract they wanted done as well as not hurting other players’ jobs is certainly a little something to be proud of.

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    End of an era: Coyotes part ways with Tippett days after Doan departure

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    The Arizona Coyotes will look different in 2017-18, and not just because longtime captain Shane Doan won’t be back. The team confirmed that they’re parting ways with head coach Dave Tippett late on Thursday.

    Tippett spent eight seasons as head coach of the Coyotes, peaking with a run to the 2012 Western Conference Final. Early on, he distinguished himself as being able to coach a sound enough defense to help the team correct for a low-budget roster.

    In recent years, he hasn’t been able to conjure that same magic. The Coyotes missed the playoffs in the last five seasons of Tippett’s tenure.

    “On behalf of the entire Coyotes organization, I would like to sincerely thank Tip for all of his hard work and the many contributions he made to our organization,” Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway said. “Tip is a man of high character and we are very grateful for his leadership during his tenure as our head coach. Ultimately, we have some philosophical differences on how to build our team. Therefore, we mutually agreed that it is in everyone’s best interest to have a coaching change in order to move our franchise forward.”

    Along with Doan and Tippett, Mike Smith is also out of town, and the ownership situation has come into focus. Former GM Don Maloney was fired last summer, so this franchise has been making big changes for some time, even ignoring the perennial arena drama.

    The Coyotes announced that a new coaching search would kick into gear “immediately.” They might not have scored points with potential candidates considering the last week or so …

    It’s a true changing of the guard out in the desert. This is also a time of stability heading into Friday, the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

    More on the changes

    Coyotes receive criticism for the way they handled Doan’s departure.

    Mike Smith traded to Calgary, “no consolation prize” for Flames.

    Oilers reportedly might spend Eberle savings on signing Russell

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    Optimistic Edmonton Oilers fans who didn’t like the Jordan Eberle trade could at least rationalize the savings, as Ryan Strome comes at a $3.5 million salary-cap discount. Surely that money will be focused squarely on locking up the future – aka sorting things out with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid – right?

    After all, that was the spin from GM Peter Chiarelli: moving Eberle for Strome was all about “long-term thinking.”

    Well, about that …

    TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Oilers are nearing a deal with defenseman Kris Russell that could carry approximately a $4 million cap hit over a four-year term. The dollar amount can change, but that would put the shot-blocking defenseman’s cost at around $16 million overall. (There are rumblings that it might be $18M with a no-movement clause.)

    Now, before we criticize (er, discuss) the move, do note that McKenzie reports that it isn’t a done deal. If it happens, it might not be announced until Friday, anyway.

    If it does go through, the move inspires comparisons to last summer. To refresh your memory, the Oilers made a polarizing (but money-saving) move by sending Taylor Hall to the Devils for Adam Larsson. Shortly after that trade, the Oilers essentially used those savings to sign Milan Lucic.

    Results were … mixed, and Lucic’s contract seemingly stands as a barrier to accrue other assets.

    Could the same thing happen here? Russell has his proponents, yet his possession stats indicate that his stature has been inflated, at times, around the NHL. One thing that’s undeniable is Russell’s age: he’s 30.

    Will a 30-year-old defenseman fall apart during a four-year deal? Not necessarily, although his shot-blocking tendencies inspire some concern; just look at how Dan Girardi aged in New York.

    Either way, it’s difficult to defend giving Russell about $4 million a year when you’re trying to sign Leon Draisaitl (RFA this summer) and Connor McDavid (RFA next summer, but eligible for an extension as early as July).

    Recent rumblings don’t inspire a ton of confidence, either. For one thing, Chiarelli made a strange semi-challenge regarding Draisaitl and offer sheets.

    There are also rumors about McDavid’s potential contract demands.

    Again, the parameters of a Russell deal could change; the Oilers might not even bring him back at all. TSN’s Darren Dreger also notes that McDavid wouldn’t necessarily receive that big payday he’d possibly ask for.

    Still, Oilers fans have experienced the worst-case scenario far more often than not in recent years, and these developments could inspire some doom and gloom … even if all three players are kept in the fold.

    Report: Vegas isn’t interested in trading defensemen Theodore, Schmidt

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    The Vegas Golden Knights enjoyed another busy day on Thursday, moving the likes of David Schlemko and Trevor van Riemsdyk. That doesn’t mean that all their defensemen are necessarily for sale, even with some pressure to trade away a few more.

    Now, it’s plausible that someone merely hasn’t found the right price to entice Golden Knights GM George McPhee, but TSN’s Pierre LeBrun indicates that he’s shooting down offers for especially enticing young defensemen.

    Specifically, McPhee gave a hard “No” to at least three teams regarding Shea Theodore and also stonewalled offers for Nate Schmidt, according to LeBrun.

    It’s probably not fair to say that McPhee hasn’t been willing to move younger players altogether. After all, Trevor van Riemsdyk is 25, much like Schmidt.

    Even so, one could infer that McPhee would be quicker to trade away a veteran whose value may not ever be higher, such as Marc Methot or Alexei Emelin.

    For what it’s worth, let’s break down the Golden Knights’ current defensemen in two camps (30-and-under, 30-and-older) along with their contract situations, with help from Cap Friendly.

    Under 30

    Luca Sbisa, 27, $3.6 million cap hit through 2017-18
    Brayden McNabb, 26, $1.7M through 2017-18
    Jon Merrill, 25, $1.138M through 2017-18
    Colin Miller, 24, $1M through 2017-18
    Theodore, 21, $863K through 2017-18
    Griffin Reinhart, 23, RFA
    Schmidt, 25, RFA

    30 and older

    Methot, $4.9M through 2018-19
    Jason Garrison, $4.6M through 2017-18
    Emelin, $4.1M through 2017-18
    Clayton Stoner, 32, $3.25M through 2017-18
    Deryk Engelland, 35, $1M through 2017-18

    Considering the options at hand, it’s still feasible that someone might convince McPhee to ship Schmidt and/or Theodore over, anyway. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been connected to Schmidt and Colin Miller in rumors, though it’s unclear how likely such moves might be. Vegas isn’t tied to many players beyond this coming season, so they have plenty of flexibility to change their minds.

    The Golden Knights may also view the trade deadline as a more fruitful time to move a veteran such as Methot.

    Even so, it sure sounds like McPhee would at least prefer to build around his youngsters, and Theodore might be the clearest keeper of them all.

    NHL may punish failed offside reviews with penalties next season

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    It wasn’t a good look for the league, and it wasn’t captivating television, particularly for casual hockey fans intrigued by a fresh Stanley Cup Final matchup.

    P.K. Subban seemed to score the first goal of the Penguins – Predators series, only for the 1-0 tally to be overturned after a lengthy offside review. Plenty of people in Nashville were never convinced that the league made the right call, and even if it was correct, Filip Forsberg would have been offside by a tiny margin. The fact that it came mere hours after Gary Bettman praised the process only exacerbated the issue.

    (You can watch that agonizingly minute discussion in the video above. Predators fans might not want to re-live it.)

    Colin Campbell presented an interesting question for next season on Thursday: would a team like Pittsburgh make such a marginal challenge if a failed review would result in a minor penalty?

    It’s something the executive will bring to the competition committee and then the Board of Governors; Campbell believes such a tweak has a strong chance of being instituted in 2017-18.

    Previously, a coach would lose his timeout if an offside goal review failed. If this change is implemented, a team would keep that timeout but suffer a minor penalty.

    Campbell notes that this tweak would apply to offside challenges, not goalie interference reviews.

    Ultimately, for Campbell, it comes down to the spirit of the offside rule. (TSN has video of his full comments.)

    Amusingly, the Predators also suffered from an infamous offside goal that would have benefited from an obvious review, as this Matt Duchene goal from 2013 inspired the NHL to admit that a mistake was made.

    The logic is pretty simple. If a goal was glaringly offside, then a team will view a challenge as worth the risk of possibly being penalized. If it’s a matter of inches or some other marginal question, a penalty would – ideally – deter a team from making a flimsier challenge. Specifically, Campbell pointed to offside reviews in which goals came long after the infraction had a significant impact on play.

    Now, sure, you could make some wise cracks about the idea, especially considering how the NHL’s suffered from a painful roll-out of a change here and there. And perhaps some coaches will still believe that it’s worth the risk to flip that coin.

    Still, the league’s heart is in the right place, and it could very well succeed in two goals: getting things right and not boring everyone to tears.

    Related

    NHL might crack down on slashes, too