SUN Hockey Pool

'Business as usual' for NHL teams

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:38 PM ET

BOCA RATON, FLA. - "Business as usual."

That was the phrase used by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the league's general managers to sum up their approach to dealing with the uncertainty of an expiring collective bargaining agreement.

The NHL's current deal with its players expires Sept. 15 and the GMs will have to deal with the free agency period that kicks off July 1 under the terms of the current deal even though a new CBA could result in a reduced salary cap.

"Every team is different in that respect. The message for us is business as usual," said Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. "Sooner or later there will be a deal made and we'll play hockey."

"We're one of 30 teams facing the same dilemmas. For us it's business as usual," said Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. "We're going to use the approach that we're continuing the evaluation process, development process, drafting process and signing process for our team. So things really don't change in those regards."

The GMs received a brief update on the CBA situation from Bettman Wednesday morning.

"The update is there was no update, there's nothing going on," said Bettman. "The fact is when the union is ready to negotiate we'll be ready to sit down. I'm not particularly concerned about the time line. There's plenty of time. Listen, we have new union leadership with a lot of new personnel and my guess is they still have a lot of work to do and I'm OK with that. When they're ready, we'll be ready."

 

OTHER ITEMS

- The GMs want the on-ice officials to be more vigilant when it comes to line changes. It's expected they will be told to call teams for having too many men on the ice if the replacement player goes over the boards before the player leaving the ice is within five feet of the bench.

- The GMs are also recommending icing be called more stringently. An offensive player must touch the puck to nullify a potential icing call. There have been instances where icing has been waved off when the puck has simply been in the vicinity of a player on what has been called an "attainable pass."

- The GMs have recommended the competition committee consider implementing the hybrid icing rule the GMs came up with here. It would see icing waved off if the offensive player beats a retreating defenceman to the face-off dot. If the defenceman gets to the dot first or they are tied, the whistle would blow and icing would be called. The change is to cut down on dangerous races that can wind up with heavy collisions into the end boards.

- They will continue to look at hand passes in the defensive zone. There was talk about calling a minor penalty for a hand pass in the defensive zone, but a stricter enforcement of the current rule prohibiting closing the hand on the puck might do the trick as far as discouraging the hand pass as a defensive tactic.

- The NHL will ask the American Hockey League to test next year the so-called ringette line across the top of the circles. A player would have to cross that line with the puck in order to attempt a pass to the far blueline. A player would only be allowed to pass the puck to the redline from below the ringette line. It's hoped the ringette line would deter teams from just slapping the puck up the ice to a forward at the far blueline who simply tips the puck ahead.

- Bettman said there is no update on the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation. It remains a work in progress with no deadline.

- Bettman confirmed the Winnipeg Jets will play again next season (whenever next season is) in the Southeast Division. He said he had a conversation with Jets chairman and governor Mark Chipman, whom Bettman said was understanding of the situation.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @CJ_Stevenson


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