NHL deals with uncertain situations ahead of Seattle vote

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SEA ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Things are going well enough that the NHL is ready to expand to Seattle and the salary cap keeps going up.

But the league is still dealing with a few uncertain situations on the eve of what should be a slam-dunk expansion vote to bring Seattle into the fold.

The Ottawa Senators’ downtown arena project is in danger of falling apart, and Arizona Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway is looking for a partner as he tries to secure a long-term home in the desert. Meanwhile, the league would like to begin making plans for a 2020 World Cup of Hockey but has no guarantee of labor peace that would allow such a tournament to take place.

”If we’re going to do a World Cup, and do it with the planning necessary, if we don’t know by the first of the year or All-Star, then there’s no sense in trying to pull off a World Cup for 2020,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday. ”For the last year and a half, two years, we’ve been anxious to anchor plans for a World Cup, but for whatever reason the Players’ Association hasn’t been prepared to do that.”

Bettman updated the Board of Governors on those topics and others before the vote that’s expected to award Seattle the league’s 32nd franchise. The team would begin play in the 2021-22 season, a year after original plans because arena renovations aren’t scheduled to be finished until the fall of 2020.

Seattle expansion and the realignment that comes with it will be announced Tuesday.

Those topics weren’t discussed on the first day of the board’s annual December meeting that was more about league business. Bettman says the salary cap is projected to go up to roughly $83 million next season, up from the current $79.5 million limit. That’s a sign revenues are continuing to rise after the success of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

”The fact that the salary cap continues to increase means revenue’s continued to increase, which means the state of the sport and the business is very healthy – as healthy as it’s ever been,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. ”And that’s good for us, that’s good for the players. I think it’s good for everybody.”

There isn’t yet agreement between the league and the Players’ Association that would ensure neither side chooses to terminate the current collective bargaining agreement in September 2020.

”There hasn’t been any substantive dialogue on any of the topics that I assume (players) may or may not want to conclude,” Bettman said. ”They know the time frame. The puck’s in their end.”

An NHLPA spokesman said the group did not have anything to add on the topic of potential CBA talks.

Situations with the Senators and Coyotes are league concerns that bear watching with particular attention on Melnyk suing his partner for $700 million in the aftermath of the failing arena development plan. Bettman said he’s ”disappointed” with how things have gone in Ottawa, which ranks 27th in attendance at its rink outside Canada’s capital.

”I think for a whole host of reasons (a new downtown arena) would be nice, but Mr. Melnyk has said if he has to make Canadian Tire Centre work, he can do that,” Bettman said. ”This is a complicated situation, although in its original form, for a lot of reasons, some of which you’ve read in the complaint that’s been filed, the project as originally envisioned unfortunately isn’t viable.”

It’s unclear what’s viable long-term for the Coyotes, who have been fighting for years for a stable arena situation in the Phoenix area. Barroway, who became the Coyotes’ sole owner in June 2017, is now looking to sell a portion of the team in what would be another shakeup atop an organization all too used to changes and uncertainty in recent years.

”I think Andy Barroway’s made clear that he’s looking for a partner,” Daly said. ”There’s been a lot of discussion around that, and I think he’s hopeful that something can happen in the near term. … I think the efforts there will be on getting a new arena. So we have some patience.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.