Shanahan rulings to be subjected to third-party arbitrator?

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Even though it was a small piece of the NHL’s CBA proposal to the players’ union, this bit about how the league would handle disciplinary hearings was pretty intriguing:

Supplemental and Commissioner Discipline
We are proposing to amend current Player discipline provisions to introduce additional procedural safeguards to protect Player interests, including an ultimate appeal right to a “neutral” third-party arbitrator with a “clearly erroneous” standard of review.

In short, appeals of rulings from NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan would be conducted by an outside party, rather than the guy previously overseeing the procedure — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Upon hearing this, one name jumps to mind: Raffi Torres

After being suspended 25 games for his hit on Chicago’s Marian Hossa during the playoffs, Torres both issued a statement and appealed the suspension length through the NHLPA, condemning the manner in which the decision was reached.

Here’s text from the appeal request obtained by Eric Macramalla, PHT’s resident sports legal analyst:

The NHLPA argues that supplementary discipline must be imposed by the NHL in a “consistent manner” so that players have a clear understand and expectation as to how on-ice transgressions will be treated by the league. In this case, in the view of the NHLPA, the ruling was not consistent with previous cases and the hearing and suspension “violated the very basic requirements of a fair process” which is a “matter of concern to all Players”.

The NHLPA goes on to argue that supplementary discipline needs to be imposed in a “consistent manner” and that the “discipline imposed on Mr. Torres manifestly was not”.

The NHLPA has characterized the suspension as “excessive and arbitrary in that it is entirely inconsistent with the League’s past treatment of similar incidents”

It was clear the PA was displeased with the league’s disciplinary procedure (which, to be fair, was in its first year of existence.)

Torres’ appeal was successful to a certain degree — Gary Bettman reduced the suspension from 25 to 21 games — but the commissioner’s decision was rife with ramifications.

Bettman overruled the longest and arguably most controversial decision of Shanahan’s time as NHL discipline czar, and did so nearly three months after the fact (Torres was suspended on May 3, the appeal was announced on Jul. 2)

So the new approach to player discipline is probably a welcome development for the NHLPA. Right?

Well, not so fast.

Here’s what union boss Donald Fehr had to say in a letter to NHLPA members:

“Finally, they also proposed that the players could appeal supplemental or commissioner discipline to a neutral arbitration, on a ‘clearly erroneous’ standard, which, as a practical manner, makes it very unlikely that any decision would be overturned.”

For more on the “clearly erroneous” standard, click here.

The next 10 days promise to be a lot of fun.

Islanders’ D getting crowded with four-year deal for Adam Pelech

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If nothing else, quantity probably won’t be much of an issue for the New York Islanders’ defense in 2017-18.

GM Garth Snow locked down another blueliner on Monday, as he signed Adam Pelech to a four-year contract. The deal is worth $1.6 million per season ($6.4M overall), according to Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

Pelech, 22, played 44 games at the NHL level in 2016-17, collecting 10 points and struggling from an analytics standpoint. He also appeared in nine games with the Islanders in 2015-16.

Staple notes that this could make for a logjam – or, to put a positive spin on it, make for a lot of competition – particularly if the Isles can strike a deal with Calvin de Haan soon. If that pans out, they’d have eight defensemen who would need to go through waivers.

On the bright side, the Islanders’ defense looks respectable on paper, and that’s assuming that Pelech doesn’t take a step forward. If he does, this could be another respectable, under-the-radar move by Snow.

At the moment, it mainly seems like adding depth and flexibility, which isn’t the worst thing, either.

Plenty of opportunity on revamped Blackhawks defense

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For almost a decade, Niklas Hjalmarsson was a mainstay on the Blackhawks’ back end, quietly providing some of the most effective defense in the league.

But with Hjalmarsson in Arizona now, traded to the Coyotes for the younger-though-less-proven Connor Murphy, it remains to be seen how Chicago’s blue line will roll out next season.

In addition to Hjalmarsson, the ‘Hawks also bid adieu to Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, and Trevor van Riemsdyk this offseason.

Add up all the good-byes, and that’s a lot of minutes to replace.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we’re going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

The way it looks right now, the top four will be comprised of Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, and Michal Kempny. That’s two left shots — Keith and Kempny — and two righties — Seabrook and Murphy.

Read more: After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

The bottom pairing, though, is anyone’s guess. Newly signed Czech defenseman Jan Rutta is in the mix. But so too are Jordan Oesterle, Gustav Forsling, Ville Pokka, Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and possibly even Luc Snuggerud.

Once training camp starts, it’ll be up to those young players to prove themselves.

“Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more,” said Oesterle, whom the ‘Hawks signed July 1. “I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Veteran Michal Rozsival is also under contract for next season. However, he turns 39 in September, and with all that youth champing at the bit, the Blackhawks will be hoping they won’t need him much, if at all.

Chicago’s defense in 2016-17, ranked by total time on ice

Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

“Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

“We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

Just don’t bet the house on it.

Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

From the press release:

Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.