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Golden Knights, William Hill sportsbook announce historic partnership

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It was a pretty busy Tuesday afternoon for the business side of the National Hockey League. In the span of an hour, the league announced a sponsorship with Jägermeister, making the liqueur company the “official shot” of the NHL, and the Vegas Golden Knights teamed up with the William Hill U.S. sportsbook for a multi-year partnership.

“We are always looking for innovative ways to engage different segments our fan base and provide a unique fan experience,” Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz said in a release. “This partnership between a major professional team and a sportsbook operator is a historic, landmark agreement and we are delighted to be leading the way with William Hill in this space.”

The Golden Knights/William Hill U.S. deal is the first between an NHL team and a North American sportsbook. William Hill will get advertisements on rink dasherboards, in-arena signage and have updated odds from across the league promoted on the team’s Jumbotron between periods. 

And because everything in life these days is sponsored, once a period when Golden Knights make a line change it will now be known as the “William Hill Line Change” — because gambling, you see? The promotion will also be heard on radio broadcasts.

“We hope people will be sitting at T-Mobile and betting between periods,” said William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher told Sports Business Journal. “Frankly, we know they do that already. We’re hoping to be able to get more people to our site because the brand will be right there in front of them.”

This could be the start of new revenue streams for franchises if they reside in a state that has legalized sports betting.

In May, the Supreme Court opened the door for states to legalize betting on sports, breaking a longtime ban and creating a potential financial boon for states and the gambling industry. The state of Nevada, obviously, was already enjoying gambling well before the decision.

Despite opposition from the major sports leagues and the Trump administration, the high court struck down a federal law that had barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states. States that want to take advantage of the ruling now will generally have to pass legislation to allow sportsbooks to open.

Over the summer, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said those wanting to involve the NHL will have to negotiate a deal.

“We’ve historically been opposed to extending sports betting on our game, and, emotionally, I don’t think that’s changed,” said Bettman. “However, it is a fact of life in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and it’ll be up to states to decide whether or not they’re going to enact sports betting.

“From our standpoint, we believe that that whether it’s our intellectual property or data, whether it’s video of our game, we have important assets. And if somebody is going to avail themselves or want to avail themselves of those assets in order to conduct their business, then we’re going to need to have a negotiation.”

With files from the AP

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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.

Weight of captaincy gone, Pacioretty ready for ‘new chapter’ in Vegas

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When Max Pacioretty informed his sons that he was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights, the first thing one of them did was run to his bedroom and check the bedsheets, which are covered with NHL team logos. Unfortunately for the youngster the sheets were purchased before Vegas was granted a franchise, so the Golden Knights logo was nowhere to be found.

But Pacioretty was able to ring a bell with his son by telling him that it was “the team with the show in the playoffs,” referencing the notable production that takes place before every Golden Knights game at T-Mobile Arena. That elicited some excitement and was cause for a trip to YouTube to relive the pre-game events during last spring’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I feel this organization has changed the game,” Pacioretty said during his introductory press conference on Wednesday. “You’re going to see teams copying what they do in terms of in-game production and that. As I mentioned when I came here [with Montreal], this experience was amazing but I couldn’t imagine being on the other side of it, and now that I am I’m really looking forward to it.”

[Golden Knights can still land Erik Karlsson after Pacioretty trade]

Pacioretty will have plenty of time to experience all that Vegas has to offer after having signed a four-year, $28 million extension earlier this week following the long-awaited trade from Montreal Canadiens. He’ll also be reunited with good friend Paul Stastny, who joined the Golden Knights in free agency this summer with a three-year, $19.5 million contract, as well as head coach Gerard Gallant, who was a Canadiens assistant from 2012-2014.

It’ll be a big change for Pacioretty, who’s only known the Canadiens during his 10-season NHL career. After being named an alternate before the 2014-15 season, the 30-year-old forward served as Habs captain since 2015-16. He won’t wear the ‘C’ this season and given Vegas general manager George McPhee’s quote about there being 23 captains in their locker room, Pacioretty can focus solely on hockey.

“I do think my game can improve because of it, but I don’t want to take away from that accomplishment because it is something that I will forever be grateful for,” he said. “I think it was a tremendous honor for me to be the captain, especially of that franchise, given the history and the players that have worn the ‘C’ in that franchise. 

“That being said, I couldn’t think of a better situation to be in coming off of a down year for myself, personally, for the team. Obviously it’s no secret that catching a lot heat there for the season and taking responsibility for that… This is the situation I want to be in, I want to worry about playing hockey.”

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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.

Golden Knights sign Max Pacioretty to four-year, $28 million extension

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The Vegas Golden Knights wasted no time in getting their newest player signed to a long-term contract extension.

Less than 14 hours after acquiring Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens late Sunday night, the Golden Knights announced on Monday afternoon that they have signed the winger to a four-year contract extension that will pay him $28 million. That comes out to a salary cap hit of $7 million per season.

That new contract will kick in at the start of the 2019-20 season, meaning that combined with the final year of his current contract (which will pay him $4.5 million this season) the Golden Knights will have Pacioretty under team control for the next five years through his age 34 season.

[Related: Pacioretty saga ends with trade to Vegas]

For Pacioretty, it is obviously a pretty significant raise and nearly doubles his previous annual salary. He has been one of the biggest bargains in the NHL over the past five years, scoring goals at an elite rate while being paid a fraction of what his peers have made.

Living in Nevada as opposed to Montreal will also be a boost to his bottom line.

From the Golden Knights perspective, it is a pretty significant investment financially but they still have plenty of salary cap space (both this season and in the future) and managed to keep the term of the contract to a fairly reasonable four years. Given that Pacioretty is turning 30 this November there would have been a long-term risk to go much longer than that. General manager George McPhee has signed a handful of veteran players to long-term contracts over the past year, but has done a nice job not going too long on the term with any of them. Starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (age 33) received a three-year contract extension over the summer, while veteran center Paul Stastny (age 32) was also signed to a three-year deal in free agency. The longest he has gone on term with any player has been the six-year contract he signed Jonathan Marchessault (age 27) to last season.

With Pacioretty now signed beyond this season, Vegas already has 14 players under contract for the 2019-10 season (including David Clarkson, who will forever be destined for the Long-Term Injured List) for only $56 million against the cap. Under the cap number for this season that would mean more than $23 million in salary cap space. Vegas still has more than $9 million in salary cap space for this upcoming season. All of this means they could still be players for another big score from outside the organization (like, say, a certain defenseman currently playing in Ottawa) if they really wanted to.

Even though Pacioretty is coming off of a down year there are plenty of reasons (which we looked at here) to believe Pacioretty can bounce back and once again be one of the league’s top goal-scorers.

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.

Canadiens brass moving forward after Pacioretty trade

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The Montreal Canadiens are turning the page.

Just hours after a late Sunday trade sent now-former Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights, Habs brass said the team is now looking forward after a tumultuous, soap opera-like summer in La Belle Province.

“We are entirely focused now on the team and having a great start,” Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said from the team’s golf tournament on Monday. “We’re turning the page. That’s nothing against Max. It’s what happens in hockey once and a while. He and I are friends and we spent a lot of time together over the past 10 years and I appreciate and like him very much and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Molson said the trade for Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick in 2019 came together relatively quickly over the past week or so. Discussions were ongoing with Pacioretty and when the trade request came in, the Canadiens started to actively pursue it.

“The player and the organization agreed that it was probably in the best interest of Max and the organization to look for a trade,” Molson said. “Every once in a while an organization has to make a decision, a team has to make a decision to move on. Mutually, Max’s side with his agent and the Montreal Canadiens agreed that it was probably the right time to make a move.”

[Max Pacioretty saga ends with trade to Vegas]

Molson didn’t want to get into the details of Pacioretty’s trade request or when it was made.

“It’s been going on for several months now that we’ve been trying to make this happen. Here we are today, the morning after,” Molson said.

Speaking to the media after Molson, general manager Marc Bergevin said that a trade request from Pacioretty came in last season.

“That’s a fact, yes,” Bergevin said.

Last week, Pacioretty and his agent, Allan Walsh, shot down the notion that their camp had asked for a trade.

“From our perspective, we’re going to focus on telling the truth and that is a request was made and that’s it,” Molson said.

Bergevin said that when Pacioretty made the trade request, it was evident then that an extension wasn’t going to be on the table. The GM added he never told Pacioretty that he was trying to trade him at any point last season.

“This has been going on for a while,” Bergevin said.

Bergevin added that the Golden Knights were given permission prior to the trade to talk about an extension with Pacioretty.

Suzuki was the key piece in the deal, according to Bergevin, who said the Canadiens had him 11th on their draft list in 2017. The Golden Knights would select him No. 13 overall.

“It’s something we really had to have,” Bergevin said. “He’s a cerebral player, he thinks the game well… he’s got a skill set that made him the 13th pick overall.”

Bergevin expects Tatar to be in camp and believes he can be an asset on the power play.

Pacioretty and the Golden Knights make their only trip to Montreal on November 10, which should be an emotional evening inside Bell Centre.

“Max was a great Montreal Canadien and he always will be a great Montreal Canadien,” Molson said. “He’s always welcome back in this market as a person.”

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Current, former teammates shocked by Schmidt suspension

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CHICAGO — Marc-Andre Fleury was surprised and T.J. Oshie said he was shocked to see Nate Schmidt suspended 20 games for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Current and former teammates expressed degrees of disbelief about the suspension this week after the NHL announced the Vegas Golden Knights defenseman’s punishment on Sunday. Schmidt insisted he didn’t intentionally take a banned substance and couldn’t have gotten any performance benefit from the ”trace amount” that got into his system.

”I really didn’t see how this guy, how this could happen to him,” said Fleury, the goaltender who helped Vegas reach the Stanley Cup Final last season. ”He’s obviously a very straightforward guy. I really believe everything he says. He’s a standup guy, and I don’t see him doing this kind of stuff.”

Schmidt and the Golden Knights released statements disagreeing with the suspension, though neither specified the substance. Schmidt said one of the experts testifying on his behalf at the appeal hearing likened the amount to a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

[How will Schmidt suspension affect Vegas Golden Knights?]

The appeal, which was heard by a neutral arbitrator, was denied.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he tries not to pay attention to the blowback from suspensions like this.

”I think it’s the nature of any performance-enhancing drug policy,” Daly said. ”I don’t view Nate’s reaction to this or the club’s reaction to this to be far different than other reactions you see from other athletes in other sports. It’s just the nature of the beast. I think it’s an unfortunate incident. Nate’s a good guy, he’s a great player. I wish it didn’t happen as much as he does.”

Oshie, who played with Schmidt for two seasons in Washington, trusts the explanation that it wasn’t intentional.

”I think he’s being very honest that this was out of his hands,” Oshie said. ”Knowing Schmidtty and the type of person he is, I can only think that he got the worst run of bad luck you could ever imagine. That’s the nightmare of trying to be healthy and take supplements is something gets tainted in a warehouse that no one would ever have any idea how it happened.”

Former Capitals teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov isn’t as much worried about how it happened as how Schmidt responds to adversity.

”We all know he’s nice guy, but at the same time sometimes you have to deal with the bad days in your life,” Kuznetsov said. ”You don’t want to be in that situation, but some players in different situations have their bad days, right? … Twenty games are not too much. I think they have a good team.”

Schmidt led the Golden Knights in ice time last season at 22:14 per game, and someone will have to fill the role of No. 1 defenseman until he can return Nov. 18. That will likely fall on the likes of Collin Miller, Brayden McNabb and still unsigned Shea Theodore to make sure Vegas doesn’t get off to a rough start.

”We’re lucky,” Fleury said Friday. ”We have some depth on D, and I think everybody contributed to success last season, and I think it’s another part of the season that we need somebody else to step up and not fill his shoes but play well and do the things that they can and we’ll be all right.”

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

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