Gary Bettman will not be in attendance for Kovalchuk contract hearing

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Thumbnail image for 1-bettman.jpgI know the headline of this post is going to freak some people out and wonder just what the heck is going on with the NHL. Don’t worry, there’s actually a good reason why NHL commissioner Gary Bettman won’t be in attendance today at the Ilya Kovalchuk contract grievance hearing in Boston. Tom Gulitti from Fire & Ice fills us in.

Although the hearing to decide the fate of Ilya Kovlachuk’s rejected contract with the Devils is likely to have league-wide ramifications, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will not be attending–at least not the first day.

While the grievance hearing gets underway Wednesday in Boston, Bettman will be in Calgary to attend a news conference promoting the Heritage Classic outdoor game between the Flames and Montreal Canadiens at McMahon Stadium. The news conference begins at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. The Flames and Canadiens will face-off at McMahon Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 20.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly is expected to attend the Kovalchuk hearing in Boston and Kovalchuk reportedly put off his trip home to Russia to attend the proceedings.

League business does march on after all and not having the commissioner in attendance at the Heritage Classic press conference would likely not help the opinion of Commissioner Bettman in Canada. After all, a lot of Canadians feel like Bettman dislikes Canada because he’s stood watch while teams have moved out of Canada to America.

That said, perhaps postponing the Heritage Classic press conference until next week might’ve been a good idea. This grievance over Kovalchuk’s stunning 17-year, $102 million contract is a landmark case for the NHL and kind of a big deal. I know that Bill Daly does a great job when Bettman is unavailable for action, but this is a huge deal and more than worthy of the commissioner’s direct attention. After all, Kovalchuk did put aside seeing his family to make sure to tend to business. Maybe he’ll win bonus points with systems arbitrator Richard Bloch for it.

Maybe my problem is in overstating the worth of this hearing, but what goes down here will go a long way towards how things shake out in 2012 come collective bargaining negotiations. This case is the one that will be held up on both sides as to why the system works great or it fails miserably. As to which side says what remains to be seen.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.