Realignment plan on hold, NHLPA withholds consent

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A Friday evening press release from the NHL? What could it be?

Yeah, no biggie – except that whole realignment plan is off because the NHLPA refused to provide its consent.

“It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a plan that an overwhelming majority of our clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including players,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the plan with no success. Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the realignment plan and modified playoff format for next season.”

“We believe the union acted unreasonably in violation of the league’s rights. We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate.”

Note that Daly used the word “unreasonably” twice. That’s because the CBA reportedly says the NHLPA can’t unreasonably withhold consent to the realignment plan.

So…some questions to ask going forward:

Why is the union withholding consent? (Update: because of extra travel and playoff structure.)

Is the union being reasonable or unreasonable?

Who decides if the union’s being reasonable or unreasonable?

Is this all just posturing ahead of the upcoming CBA negotiations?

Why am I always wrong?

Related:

Realignment on hold — NHLPA concerned with travel and playoff structure

Minnesota owner “disappointed” with rejected realignment

What they’re saying about NHLPA rejecting realignment

NHLPA head Donald Fehr’s statement

Trade: Islanders get Brandon Davidson from Oilers

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Maybe the third time will be the charm for Peter Chiarelli.

The first two times he has made a trade with New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow he has, well, let us just say he has not done well.

There was the trade that sent two draft picks to the Islanders for Griffin Reinhart. Those two draft picks turned into Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. Reinhart is no longer in the Oilers organization and only played 29 games for the team.

Then this past summer he traded Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. So far this season Eberle has 21 goals and 44 total points  for the Islanders while Strome, who has topped 40 points in a season just once in his career, has just nine goals and 15 assists for the Oilers.

There is no way this trade can turn out to be that bad. Right? Right?!

Let us take a look at it.

The trade: The Edmonton Oilers traded defenseman Brandon Davidson to the New York Islanders in exchange for a 2019 third-round draft pick.

Why the Islanders are making this trade: Have you seen their defense? Have you seen the way they play defensively? They are DESPERATE. They have an offense that can score with the best teams in the NHL. They are getting amazing years out of John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle. They are fourth in the NHL in goals for. They are 31st in goals against. There are only 31 teams in the league. They need to find somebody — anybody! — that can help them prevent goals. Is Davidson a game-changer? Not at all. He is probably at best a bottom-pairing defenseman. But he is something.

The Islanders enter play on Saturday one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Why the Oilers are making this trade: They are going nowhere and looking to unload anyone they can. Davidson is in the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent this season and would probably get a bit of a raise over his $1.4 million salary cap hit this season. That is something the Oilers simply can not afford given their salary cap situation. A third-round draft pick in 2019 isn’t a huge score, but it is something.

Davidson was originally drafted by the Oilers in 2010 and remained with the organization until he was traded to Montreal in February of 2017 for David Desharnais.

He played with the Canadiens until a few weeks ago when he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Oilers.

Who won the trade? The Islanders are, again, desperate for defense and picked up a warm body for very little price. The Oilers got a draft pick for somebody that was not even on their roster a few weeks ago and did not cost anything for them to originally acquire.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Trade deadline status update: Plekanec, Oduya scratched; Karlsson plays

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

With the NHL trade deadline now just days away teams are starting to make lineup decisions that will keep potential targets off the ice to protect them from injury.

Let’s just take a minute to take a quick trip through the NHL and check in on some of the more prominent names.

Oduya held out for Senators, but Erik Karlsson plays

The Ottawa Senators are in complete fire sale mode after sending Dion Phaneuf to the Los Angeles Kings a couple of weeks ago and Derick Brassard to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, and there remains a very good possibility that the rest of the team could be playing somewhere else by Monday.

[Related: Penguins land Derick Brassard in three-team deal]

The Senators play the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon and will be without veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya.

Oduya, a free agent after the season, figures to be on the move before Monday and the fact he is being held out of the lineup on Saturday afternoon is a pretty good sign that something is brewing. Coach Guy Boucher said before the game that it is not an injury related scratch, and when pressed for why Oduya was not playing he simply said “I have to keep him out.”

That usually means a trade is imminent.

The other defenseman in Ottawa that everyone is talking about — actually, the only defenseman in Ottawa that anyone is talking about — is Erik Karlsson. With each passing hour it seems more and more likely that his time with the Senators could be coming to an end.

He is, however, in the lineup for Saturday afternoon’s game.

Right now the front-runners to land him seem to be the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it was reported earlier this week by Pierre LeBrun at The Athletic that Nashville Predators general manager David Poile checked in on him.

You know which team would be a fun possibility for Karlsson? The Vegas Golden Knights.

[Related: Senators seem to be in no-win situation with Erik Karlsson]

Tomas Plekanec sits for Montreal

When the Montreal Canadiens take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night they will be without Tomas Plekanec who is being held out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. Like with Oduya, this is almost certainly a sign that the Canadiens are prepared to move the veteran center, and could perhaps be closing in on a deal.

Plekanec has spent his entire career with the Canadiens and been an extremely productive two-way player. But at age 35 his production has clearly dropped the past couple of years. In 60 games this season he has six goals to go with 18 assists.

He has a pretty big cap hit so unless the Canadiens are willing to retain some salary they probably should not expect a huge return. If Michael Grabner, a speedy 25-goal winger brings a second-round pick  and a prospect then Plekanec will almost certainly go for less.

He could be a fallback option for a team that did not land Brassard. The Winnipeg Jets, looking to upgrade their center depth, were reportedly in on Brassard and should still be in the market for another center. Plekanec could be an option there.

Joel Ward on the trade block 

Here is a new name to add to the trading block.

San Jose is one of the teams on the playoff bubble in the Western Conference, sitting in second-place in the Pacific Division with a three-point cushion over the teams on the outside, but they could be looking to move the 37-year-old Ward.

He is having a tough season offensively with only five goals and six assists in 46 games, but he is one of those veterans that general managers love at this time of year. He has a great track record for play in the postseason and has a history of scoring big goals, so perhaps somebody can think he can step in and help fill out the bottom of their lineup.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

U.S. veterans can enjoy hockey gold before deciding futures

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Americans Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan, Gigi Marvin and Kacey Bellamy have a luxury their predecessors lacked after finally capturing the nation’s first Olympic gold in women’s hockey in two decades.

Time to enjoy and celebrate the accomplishment. And no pressure for the three-time Olympians to decide quickly whether to try to play in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

At least not because of money. Women at the highest level of hockey in the United States no longer feel forced to choose between playing the game or paying the bills.

”It’s a decision based on whether I have the passion and the desire and skillset to continue to play, and I think that’s what we all strive for when that all came about,” Lamoureux-Davidson said Friday. ”So to have that, I think it means the world to us that we can make that decision based on our love for the game, and we don’t have to make a decision now based on financial means.”

Winning the first shootout in an Olympic women’s final 3-2 Thursday to snap Canada’s golden run is only the latest accomplishment in an amazing year for the team.

Less than a year ago, they banded together and threatened to boycott the 2017 world championships in March, demanding more pay and treatment similar to what the men’s team receives. USA Hockey even reached out to other players, trying to cobble together a replacement team before both sides reached an agreement after pressure from 20 U.S. senators .

That deal netted the U.S. team $20,000 apiece for the gold medal captain Meghan Duggan said she slept with Thursday night, even if she only got a couple hours amid all the celebrating. The players also got a bump in pay up to $4,000 a month in the four-year deal with the ability to make around $71,000 annually and up to $129,000 in Olympic years with contributions from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

So rather than the need to go find a job to pay rent and buy food, the U.S. women can enjoy this golden victory with their families and friends here and once they return home. They’re reveling in this victory, so much that Duggan said they’ll decide whether to go to the White House if invited when that time comes.

The team is also celebrating how far U.S. women’s hockey has come since 1998, when the Americans won the inaugural Olympic gold at Nagano with stars like Cammi Granato, who was among those who lost a fight for better pay two years later. Julie Chu, a four-time Olympian who carried the U.S. flag at the closing ceremonies in 2014 at Sochi, also missed this chance.

Duggan said she and Brianna Decker spent about 45 minutes on the phone Friday with Chu.

”She was just incredible to talk to,” Duggan said. ”She was crying on the phone. We were crying on the phone, and just what a moment. To share that with her it was fantastic.”

A.J. Mleczko won gold in 1998 and silver in 2002 for the U.S., and she told The Associated Press the money wasn’t on the minds of the players trying to erase the taste of silver after the painful loss in 2014 at Sochi. She said it’s amazing women can make a living doing what they love, just like the men.

”Now I look at what they can do from not just the money they’re getting just straight up from their contracts but now the endorsements,” Mleczko said. ”They’re such a great group of ambassadors and I am so excited for the little girls out there and the little boys that can look up to them and say, ‘That’s what I want to do,’ and that is phenomenal.”

The U.S. appears to be in good shape with 20-year-old goalie Maddie Rooney coming through with spectacular saves for gold in her first Olympics. The U.S. under-18 team won the world championship in January against Sweden after knocking off Canada in the semifinals.

Lamoureux-Morando, who scored the tying goal to force overtime against Canada, said some players want to start families and will take a year to re-evaluate what comes next. Like her sister, she is married.

”If you still have a love and passion for the game, which I think we still will, we’ll continue to try and play and be on the team,” Lamoureux-Morando said. ”But I think right now we’re just going to enjoy this win with our teammates. It’s a moment that it’s once in a lifetime. I think we’re going to cherish these next couple weeks, then kind of reevaluate down the road.”

Korea, which debuted at the Olympics with a historic combined team including 12 North Koreans, moved up from No. 22 to 17 in the new world rankings released after the U.S. victory. The IIHF announced Monday that the women’s Olympic tournament will be expanded to 10 times for 2022.

Knight said even with the recent growth, more resources are needed for other countries to get younger girls interested in hockey, even if that means offering support to bring girls over to the United States.

”I think that growth will be contagious around the world, and hopefully we can have more countries competing at the Olympics,” Knight said.

AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Canada takes Olympic bronze after beating Czech Republic 6-4

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — The Canadians made sure they aren’t going home from the Olympics empty-handed, even after missing out on a third straight gold medal.

Andrew Ebbett, Chris Kelly and Derek Roy each scored in the first period, and Canada took the bronze medal at the Pyeongchang Games by beating the Czech Republic 6-4 Saturday.

This was the third bronze for Canada to go along with nine gold medals for the country that created hockey, not that the Canadians seemed to mind too much when the buzzer sounded. They hugged in celebration at the net where Kevin Poulin made 30 saves in his second straight start in place of the injured Ben Scrivens.

Ebbett and Kelly added a goal apiece in the third, and Wojtek Wolski also scored for Canada, which finished with bronze in 1968 and 1956.

Roman Cervenka scored twice in the final 4 minutes to make the finish more exciting. After a final flurry, the Czechs stood on the ice, propped on their sticks in disappointment at coming up short of their country’s first medal since winning bronze at the 2006 Turin Games.

Martin Ruzicka and Jan Kovar also scored for the Czech Republic.

When these teams met in pool play, the Czechs beat Canada 3-2 and had not lost until a 3-0 setback against the ”Olympic Athletes from Russia” in Friday’s semifinals. Then Germany upset the Canadians 4-3 to keep them out of the gold medal game.

With both teams coming off disappointing losses, they came out a bit slowly with only three shots combined over the first seven minutes. Then Canada and the Czech Republic scored three goals in 31 seconds with Canada on top 2-1 after the flurry.

Ruzicka went to the box for hooking, and Ebbett scored after a shot from Mat Robinson went off Vojtech Mozik’s stick and then Ebbett’s skate at 8:57 for the power-play goal. The Czechs answered 16 seconds later as Ruzicka scored off a pass by Cervenka with the puck going off Poulin’s right skate and in.

The goal had barely been announced when Kelly redirected a long shot from Cody Goloubef at 9:28.

Roy skated up the slot and beat Pavel Francouz with a backhander through the pads off a feed from Brandon Kozun at 15:57. That gave Canada three goals on its first eight shots, a reversal from the semifinal loss when the Canadians gave up three goals on nine shots in the first period in losing to Germany 4-3.

Ebbett padded the lead at 5:50 of the third only to see the Czechs answer 46 seconds later. Kovar scored from the slot off a pass from Roman Horak. Kelly padded the lead with his second at 9:37 from the inside edge of the right circle for a 5-2 lead.

The Czechs thought they pulled within 5-3 on a slap shot from captain Martin Erat just 62 seconds after Kelly’s goal. But Canada challenged for goalie interference, and the goal was waved off for Tomas Zohorna’s contact with Poulin at the edge of the crease.

Cervenka’s goal with 3:34 left was reviewed for a high stick but stood after replay. He added a second with 2:05 left with the Canadians holding on for the win.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker