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NHL suspends Slava Voynov through 2019-20 season

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The NHL suspended former Kings defenseman Slava Voynov through the 2019-20 season (both the regular season and playoffs) for “unacceptable off-ice conduct.” However, the league also revealed that “Voynov’s eligibility to play in the NHL will be restored (assuming good behavior) no later than July 1, 2020.”

That “unacceptable off-ice conduct” stems from Voynov’s domestic assault arrest in October 2014, which prompted an indefinite suspension at the time. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman described “acts of domestic violence directed at [Voynov’s] wife,” Marta Varlamova, in the league’s statement.

“I have determined that Player Slava Voynov engaged in acts of domestic violence directed at his wife,” Bettman wrote. “Today’s ruling, while tailored to the specific facts of this case and the individuals involved, is necessary and consistent with the NHL’s strongly-held policy that it cannot and will not tolerate this and similar types of conduct, particularly as directed at a spouse, domestic partner or family member.”

The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman reached out to the NHLPA regarding a possible appeal on the decision, with the union responding that they’re “reviewing the decision.” The Kings, who own Voynov’s NHL rights, provided a similar statement, via Dillman:

Voynov, 29, would be 30 at the time of his potential July 2020 reinstatement. Voynov last played six games for the Kings in 2014-15. While the Kings stood by the league when it came to suspending Voynov, they also handled the situation in questionable ways. That included strange salary cap-related comments from then-GM Dean Lombardi, and allowing him to skate with teammates. The latter action prompted the league to fine the Kings $100K for breaking the terms of Voynov’s suspension.

After leaving the U.S. while facing possible deportation related to his domestic assault charges, Voynov spent the 2015-16 through 2017-18 seasons with St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL. Voynov won a gold medal with Russia during the 2018 Winter Olympics, and had hoped to return to the NHL during the 2018-19 season. Voynov was photographed with Vladimir Putin after winning that gold medal:

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Voynov applied for reinstatement back in November 2018, prompting what the league deemed “a fairly comprehensive investigation.”

As The Athletic’s Katie Strang detailed in June 2018, any potential suitor for Voynov would be wise to consider some of the graphic, disturbing details of the incident. Police reports indicated that Voynov “punched, kicked, and choked” his wife, while Strang’s account including additional disturbing details.

(Consider this a content warning, as this information can be graphic.)

Court documents detail how the fight continued when the two arrived home and the contents are equally grim. In one motion, filed on behalf of the District Attorney’s office, it states that Voynov “wrapped both of his hands around Ms. Varlamova’s neck and began to squeeze, making it difficult for her to breathe.” Voynov, according to the motion, “continued to choke her while repeatedly pushing her to the floor of the bedroom,” telling her to “get out,” that there would be “no more money for her,” and that she would be “gone.”

These clubs should also know that Varlamova’s seven-year-old daughter was reportedly at home at the time of the incident, and apparently, it did not end there.

PHT will monitor this situation for updates, which might see a decision from the NHLPA regarding an appeal.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Rene Fasel’s 2022 Olympic ‘mission’ faces same challenges as PyeongChang

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Even after the NHL announced that it wouldn’t be sending its players to PyeongChang for the 2018 Olympics, IIHF president Rene Fasel still held out hope. Maybe something could change over the summer. Maybe NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners could be enticed to change their mind.

No dice. So here we are one month out before the first Olympic tournament without NHL players since 1994.

Where does this leave possible participation for Beijing 2022? According to Fasel, it’s his “mission” to get a deal done to get the NHL back involved.

“To have the best-on-best in the Olympics in Beijing, this is my mission to do it, to make this happen, but the problem is dollars,” Fasel said Thursday during the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. “How big will the pressure be from the [Players’ Association]? I would say the solution is in the hands of the players because without the players, what do we do? If they want to come to the Games, they have to say so.”

NHLPA head Donald Fehr told the AP that he wasn’t ready to open talks just yet to have Olympic participation included.

”I would like to believe that by the time we get there that the owners would have a much greater interest and understanding of the potential value that it could have,” said Fehr about the 2022 Games. ”Whether those discussions take place in collective bargaining or take place separately in discussing the international agenda or some combination of that, I think it’s too soon to say.”

It’s been clear how upset NHL players are about the league’s decision. But participation in the Olympics wasn’t part of the last CBA talks, which allowed the owner’s to control the decision-making process. When the IOC wouldn’t budge on the league’s demands, the owner’s walked away, even while Fasel secured the $15 million he promised for travel and insurance.

In a big early negotiating of his own, Fasel now says that that money earmarked for the 2018 Games won’t be there in four years.

“The IIHF cannot afford for 2022 the $15 million to cover the expenses of transportation and insurance,” said Fasel. “We will not be able to do it. The deal we negotiated before will not work for 2022.”

Of course, if the NHLPA pushes for future Olympic participation when CBA talks roll around the owners will want something in return. Keep escrow? Lower revenue splits? Something will have to give, and the reality is it won’t come down to how much Fasel wants the NHL involved again. Look how successful that was this time.

”It seems like a big opportunity to me and I would hope and I would believe the owners share that view,” Fehr said. ”I see a lot of path, but I think it’s much too soon to make any judgments about the likelihood of it.”

Stick-tap Mike Ashmore for the audio

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL salary cap projected to rise at least $3M in 2018-19

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According to projections the NHL shared at the Board of Governors meeting on Friday, the salary cap is expected to increase by at least $3 million for the 2018-19 season.

“The league has never been healthier,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman. “The game has never been healthier. Our franchises have never been healthier.”

Currently at $75 million, if the Players’ Association chooses to use an inflator the ceiling could rise as high as $82 million. The jump to $78 million would mark the biggest rise since a $4.7 million increase for the 2014-15 season.

That would be music to the ears of a handful of NHL teams who are near the current ceiling, allowing them some extra room to maneuver for their off-season spending. It would also help teams like the Chicago Blackhawks ($66M), Los Angeles Kings ($66M), and Nashville Predators ($65M), who are already committed to at least $65 million in salary for next season, per CapFriendly. Then you have the Vegas Golden Knights, who are sitting pretty at $34 million tied up for 2018-19. You wonder how general manager George McPhee will go about using his spending space to build off their inaugural season.

The ability for the ceiling to rise by a minimum of $3 million is due to another increase in league revenues, which Bettman said is projected to hit around $4.85 billion this season, while hockey-related revenues are expected to reach $4.54 billion, an increase of 8.2 percent.

We’ve come a long way from a $39 million ceiling all the way back in 2005-06.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta floats idea of NHL in Houston

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The NHL will likely go up to 32 teams at some point in the future, so until that happens the questions of expansion/relocation will continue.

On Wednesday, Katie Strang of The Athletic reported that Commissioner Gary Bettman met with Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta about the possibility of bringing an NHL team to the city.

Bettman told Strang that the league wasn’t looking into relocation options at the moment, but should that change… “If Houston were to express an interest in having an NHL franchise, under the right circumstances, it’s something we might want to consider,” he said.

Last month, Fertitta made his desire to bring an NHL team to Houston clear and that option checks some important boxes should the league look to move a franchise or expand. There’s interested ownership and a suitable building with the Toyota Center, which seats 17,800 for hockey.

“I would put an NHL team here tomorrow,” Fertitta said last month via the Houston Chronicle. “This one has got to work. But I’d love to have the other dates in the building. Do I want to see Toyota Center filled up 300 nights a year? Definitely. We’ll do whatever we can do, but whatever we do has to make sense. Will we be aggressive? Yes. That’s my nature.”

Fertitta Tweeted on Thursday that this whole process is in the early stages.

These types of meetings aren’t unique for the NHL. Bettman has met with many prospective groups over the years who have expressed interest in owning a team. Hartford, as we know, still wants the Whalers back 20 years after they relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina. It never hurts to listen to a pitch because there’s always some team or teams having financial or arena issues that spur rumors. You can definitely think of more than a few teams right now who would make that list.

Houston has a long relationship with hockey, as Third String Goalie wrote about earlier this year, and former Rockets owner Les Alexander almost delivered NHL hockey to the city on two occasions. Most recently the AHL’s Aeros played in the Toyota Center until 2013 when their parent club, the Minnesota Wild, moved the team to Des Moines, Iowa.

There’s plenty of competition to be head of the line should the NHL want to expand or relocate. Along with Houston there’s Quebec City, Kansas City, Seattle, and Hamilton, Ont., among other cities. This is just another hat in a big ring.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Bettman on NHL Olympic future; Malkin joins ‘Putin’s Team’

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on if the league would ever return to the Olympics: “I never say never, but I find it hard to envision a scenario where it makes sense, unless, possibly, if the Winter Games are back in North America where the time frame and the attention and the logistics, travel, are a lot different.” [NBC Sports]

• Here’s a name for future induction in the Hockey Hall of Fame: Frank Zamboni. [CBC]

Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins is the latest Russian hockey player to join “Putin’s Team,” the social movement first promoted by Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. [Tribune Review]

• All hail Sergei Bobrovsky. [Jackets Cannon]

• Step away from the panic button. It’s going to be just fine for the Calgary Flames. [Flames Nation]

• Returning to the Los Angeles Kings was like coming home for Mike Cammalleri. [Kings]

• The San Jose Sharks have been looking a bit Kings-like of late. [NBC Bay Area]

• What did Leo Komarov think of the little kiss Brad Marchand planted on him Saturday night? “I kind of liked it.” [TSN]

• Just how close did Jaromir Jagr get to signing with the St. Louis Blues? [Post-Dispatch]

• You may notice Keith Yandle is using a unique stick. Here’s the story behind it. [Panthers]

• Now that Matt Duchene is gone, who should be the regular second line center for the Colorado Avalanche? [Mile High Hockey]

Jason Zucker’s goal scoring binge is benefiting more than just the Minnesota Wild. [Star Tribune]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.