TORONTO — With Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto’s suspension for “activities related to sports wagering” still fresh on everybody’s minds, there was much interest in what would be said during a report on gambling that was part of the agenda for Tuesday’s NHL general managers meeting.
Some teams have been wondering, given the lack of public detail about what Pinto did to earn the suspension, what to take away from it, as far as the dos and don’ts for players when gambling.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly addressed GMs on the topic and afterward told The Athletic what his message was.
“To the extent people are saying that nobody knows what the rules are, I told them why that shouldn’t be the case,” he said. “In the sense of all the training we do and what the players are told repeatedly.”
Obviously, everyone around the league knows players can’t bet on NHL games in any form, as is clearly stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. Teams should be aware of activities like proxy betting, as well.
“There’s a couple of specific rules in our governing documents (the CBA, the league constitution and the by-laws) that say what you can’t do,” Daly said. “There’s also the general catch-all that the commissioner’s role is to protect the integrity of the game, and so I mean there’s a lot of common sense things that you should know that you’re not entitled to do that will get you in trouble if you do them.”
Registering no-trade lists
Daly also talked to GMs about no-trade lists in the wake of the Senators forfeiting a first-round draft pick over the Evgeni Dadonov rescinded trade fiasco.
“What the managers heard today was that they are in total control of this if they want to be in control of this,” Daly told The Athletic. “They can file the no-trade lists with us and eliminate any risk to them, or they don’t have to.”
So it’s been presented as an option to GMs to file no-trade lists to NHL Central Registry, and by the sound of it, there’s been a rather strong recommendation from the NHL that they do so.
“It’s totally up to the club as to how they want to control it,” Daly said.
After the rescinded trade between Anaheim and Vegas in March 2022, the league talked about warehousing no-trade lists in a centralized manner with NHL Central Registry while also keeping the NHL Players’ Association in the loop on it. But the NHLPA eventually decided it wouldn’t sign off on that, because some players and agents worried about that information leaking out, as far as which teams players didn’t want to be traded to.
Because of that, the league can’t forcibly centralize all that info on its own. So it’s telling teams if they want to do so with the league, they can.
“What we can’t do, is we can’t say that if it’s not done, the trade is null and void, so there has to be some responsibility on behalf of the clubs,” Daly said. “If they want to avoid the risk, it’s easy to avoid the risk.”
It remains to be seen how many teams will use Central Registry for that. Daly said some clubs already have done so.
Flames open for business
Nikita Zadorov’s trade request made headlines Friday, but it was just a part of a bigger-picture reality for a Flames team that sounds ready to shift gears.
With GMs gathering in Toronto the past couple of days, word spread on the fact the Flames are willing to listen on most of their pending unrestricted free agents, a list that includes Zadorov but also Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev.
Flames GM Craig Conroy politely declined to comment on the team’s plans Tuesday, but the buzz is growing from front offices around the league.
Hanifin came very close to signing a sizeable extension a month ago (believed to be close to $60 million) but decided to hold off to see how season started. Now that ship has sailed. For both parties.
But whether it’s Hanifin or Tanev or Lindholm, teams showing interest also will potentially want to talk extension, so they’re trying to gauge that part of it, too. We could see an extension as part of a trade with these players, which would help the Flames garner more in return.
There’s no urgency to any of this. The Flames have until the March 8 trade deadline to figure it all out, but they are for sure in listening mode, looking to reset their roster to some degree and get high-end future assets. And that’s dominating chatter across NHL circles.
Tanev is still a beast and while the Maple Leafs, for obvious reasons given former Flames GM Brad Treliving now running things in Toronto, were connected to Zadorov over the weekend and I do also believe there’s interest there, there’s no question Treliving has also inquired on Tanev. But I’m told three to four teams have already shown interest in Tanev. There should be a robust market there. The dilemma for the Flames on Tanev is probably timing. Do you wait closer to March 8 to get the best possible trade for him but then risk losing him to injury along the way? Tough call.
Vancouver and New Jersey are believed to have also inquired on Zadorov, meanwhile.
While not getting into specific names, Canucks GM Patrik Allvin confirmed Tuesday his hope of eventually adding another D.
“Yeah, I mean, there’s one area where we’d like to see if we can find something,” Allvin said. “But it’s also still early and there’s still not much movement around (the league). But if there’s anything there (adding D), we would have interest.”
Predators not looking to trade Saros
Juuse Saros would be a dream addition for several teams, including wishful thinkers in Edmonton, but the reality is that the Predators have no intention to move him.
They see Saros at 28 as being part of the re-tool they’re doing and expect that when the team is ready to contend again, he’ll be front and center.
“I met with his agent, I’d like to re-sign him, I told them that’s our intention,” Predators GM Barry Trotz told The Athletic. “We’re obviously in a little bit of a re-tool type of situation and when we get reset here, I’d like him to be part of the backbone.
“I understand that there’s (trade) rumors out there. There’ll be rumors from the top teams, but that’s not our intention with Saros.”
It’s believed the Predators turned down a pretty strong offer for Saros last year.
They hope to extend him this summer, one year ahead of his contract expiry. Obviously, never say never in this business, because a team could make the kind of offer that is impossible to turn down, but the Predators don’t see that scenario right now.
Now, if the Preds can’t get Saros extended this summer, then the organization has a different decision to make. They likely wouldn’t want him to enter next season on an expiring deal. But they seem confident he will want to sign.
“I think Saros and Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg, those three are where you start, and we’re trying to add some good people,” Trotz said.
Patrick Kane’s list grows
Agent Pat Brisson continues to move the process forward on UFA Patrick Kane and there are Zoom calls scheduled for later this week with interested teams, involving both coaches and GMs.
While Brisson told me recently that he would try to limit the list to five or six teams, it sounds like that’s grown to seven or eight as clubs try to get in on it.
One club that hopes to remain part of the mix is Kane’s hometown Buffalo Sabres.
“Yeah we are a team that checked in on him once he became a free agent, and we asked them to keep us posted and that’s what they’ve done,” Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said. “We’ll see where it goes from there.”
The league’s hockey ops, as expected, had a detailed discussion with GMs on Tuesday about cut-resistant equipment. League executive Rod Pasma has been working with manufacturers for a number of years on it, but obviously the tragedy in England last month spurred that forward.
Pasma told reporters after that the league has approved in the double digits different cut-resistant products for sleeves, legs and more recently more tops/neck guards. So there are plenty of options for teams and players.
“It was an update on all the different companies and different technologies out there,” said Kings GM Rob Blake. “Whether it’s wrist or the socks, but obviously there’s a focus on the neck guards.”
It remains a player’s choice whether to wear one, as per the CBA but key for GMs is making sure players have options.
“Making the options available is paramount,” Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney said. “The testing they’re going through and the league doing due diligence to make sure you’re wearing things that meet required standards will prevent possible injuries.”
As Sweeney said, some injuries are preventable and some aren’t, but having the best possible equipment available is important. And education.
“That’s a big part of it, starting at the lowest levels of hockey and working your way up through, certainly at the AHL level — hoping that if players are comfortable wearing it there, they’ll wear it when they graduate to the NHL,” Sweeney said. “That’s part of the education process.”
“All of us in that room, first and foremost, want to do everything we can to have player safety be a priority,” added Adams. “It’s interesting to know that there’s options out there and what can we do to help. To me, it’s about having open communication with our players to say, ‘Hey, we want to help you. Here’s different things you can think about.’”
Holland’s tough week
The Oilers are 1-0 under new coach Kris Knoblauch, but it’s been a tough week overall for veteran GM Ken Holland. No one enjoys firing a coach, and Jay Woodcroft was well-liked.
“We need to win a few games to kind of get everybody feeling good about themselves,” Holland told reporters. “Everybody feels terrible about what happened to Woody and to Dave Manson. But we’re in the winning business, and we weren’t winning enough.”
Backstrom “unlikely” to return
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan says it’s looking unlikely like veteran center Nicklas Backtrom will return to play but no final decision has been made.
Backstrom left the team recently needing to re-evaluate his career after struggling to find his form following hip surfacing surgery in June 2022.
“He’s taking time away,” MacLellan told The Athletic. “I don’t think the performance is at the level he’d like to be at.”
“I would say it’s probably unlikely he comes back.”
Sharks stars not asking out yet
Sharks GM Mike Grier recently addressed players after the team’s woeful start to the season, and it sparked the team’s first win of the year. For a young GM, that kind of chat can’t be easy.
“I don’t know if it was tough, but it was something that was just necessary,” Grier said. “Just kind of reset the group and let them know what I felt and what I was seeing. You’ve got to do it from time to time.”
Grier remembers as a player in San Jose when former GM Doug Wilson would do the same, or Glen Sather when Grier wore an Oilers uniform.
“It’s all part of the job,” Grier said.
It looks to be a difficult season for the Sharks, and it makes you wonder if eventually veteran stars like Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture will approach Grier about a potential move, something that clearly has not happened yet. Both players at the moment remain happy to be Sharks.
“We’ll see,” Grier said. “I try to keep in contact with those guys pretty often, especially with what we’re going through. They’ve still been positive. I know it’s been tough on Logan, being injured and having to watch this, so he’s probably a little different.
“Tomas has been good. He’s taken the burden on of providing the offense and the leadership without Logan. So it’s been tough on him. But at this point, I think he’s still on board and trying to help us turn this thing around.
“Losing is something that can weigh on guys, so we’ll have to see as we go down the road here.”
Hertl has a full no-move, and the captain Couture has almost that by virtue of a modified no-trade that lists only three teams he could get traded to.
Hertl, 30, is in the second season of an eight-year deal that carries an $8.13 million cap hit, while Couture, 34, has three more years on his deal after this season at an $8 million cap hit.
The GMs’ executive committee met Monday afternoon, one day ahead of the main GMs meeting. This is a relatively new thing, the formation of an executive committee that acts as a more direct liaison with the league’s hockey ops.
The committee consists of Doug Armstrong (St. Louis Blues), Lou Lamoriello (New York Islanders), Holland, Don Waddell (Carolina Hurricanes), Steve Yzerman (Detroit Red Wings) and Kevin Cheveldayoff (Winnipeg Jets).
Yzerman (in Sweden with the Red Wings) and Holland (flying late from Edmonton after the coaching change) were not present at Monday’s meeting.
The basic function of the committee is to facilitate organizing agenda items and point out issues that should be discussed with the league ahead of the GMs meeting. Senior executive VP Colin Campbell is the NHL’s main point person with the executive committee.
World junior investigation
Once again, we checked in with the league on whether there was anything yet to share on its investigation into the 2018 Canadian world junior team and any potential discipline that will result from it.
Daly responded that there was nothing new on that matter, nothing for the league to share yet.
(Top photo of Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin: Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today)