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NHL general managers assembled in Toronto on Tuesday at their annual meeting to discuss blindside hits and shootouts along with 2017 expansion draft rules.
No major changes were reportedly decided, but conversations started Tuesday may give momentum for further discussions when the group meets again in March.
Blindside hits have become a flashpoint since Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri hit Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin in a game on Nov. 5.
Such hits are only illegal if the head is the main point of contact. This is Rule 48, which does not include blindside hits. The blindside hit language was taken out in 2012.
With Kadri on Sedin, the shoulder was the main point of contact. After it was deemed Kadri would not face discipline, the Canucks released a statement voicing their displeasure with the decision.
General managers want to make sure their players stay safe, but also don’t want to remove the physical nature from hockey.
“There’s lot of passion on both sides of the coin when it comes to hitting and making sure that it is still an integral part of the game because nobody wants to see that lost,” Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said according to the Canadian Press. “Now, certainly the mindset is players’ safety first. The hard part, and I feel for Player Safety (department), they have to rule by the letter of the rule.”
Said Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall via ESPN.com, “No one wants to see blindside hits but when you put that blindside (language) in (Rule 48) you’re going to eliminate a lot of things, you also encourage players to turn away from hits. It’s not as easy and simple as people think it is, I wish it was. I think it’s one of those issues that needs to be looked at and studied and talked about before any rash decision is made.”
Expansion draft questions
The NHL tried to bring general managers up to speed on where they were in regards to rules for the June expansion draft for the Las Vegas franchise and address certain issues.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that the NHL and NHLPA have finalized a list of protected players for the draft, which is mostly the 65-70 players with no-move clauses in their contract.
LeBrun also reported that NHL member clubs were worried that Las Vegas could try to figure out a way to maximize their roster through a loophole.
Specifically, GMs worry that Vegas could take advantage of the 48-hour window before the expansion draft in June to quietly agree to terms on a deal with a pending unrestricted free agent, but wait until July 1 to sign him, so as to be able to pluck another player off that team’s roster in the expansion draft. This would circumvent the rules that stipulate that if a team loses a free agent to Vegas in that 48-hour free-agent-signing window, they can no longer lose another player in the expansion draft. So some GMs worry that veteran GM George McPhee, who wasn’t born yesterday, would take advantage of the situation.
LeBrun reported that NHL general managers could also figure out a way around the rules to ensure that they keep as many players as possible.
Meaning, (General manager George) McPhee wisely worries that a team or two might do a “drawer deal” with a pending UFA, but not actually officially sign it until after the expansion draft. Why? Teams don’t have to protect pending free agents because they’re not eligible for the expansion draft. Here’s an example: If the San Jose Sharks didn’t officially re-sign Joe Thornton until after the expansion draft, they could protect another player instead.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com that there would be “significant penalties” if teams tried to circumvent the expansion draft rules.
Overall in league reportedly tried to answer as many questions as possible about the draft in the meeting, but didn’t bring up any changes to the process.
“This is more just touching base, making sure that on the topics of the day managers have the information and to the extent that hockey operations needs any feedback they get it now,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “But this isn’t meeting where you make fundamental changes, it’s really more of an update.”
The NHL will take a closer look at incorporating international shootout rules, which allows teams to designate one shooter for the rounds following the initial three. Currently players can only make one shootout attempt until all players have been used.
At the 2014 Olympics in a preliminary round game, forward T.J. Oshie became Team USA’s ‘designated shooter’ against Russia after the first three shot attempts. This increased the drama, and turned Oshie into a star after USA beat Russia.
At the 2007 World Junior Championships, Canada’s Jonathan Toews went head-to-head with Team USA’s Peter Mueller, which is another international shootout event fondly remembered in the hockey world for its drama and suspense.
“I’ve got to admit, it’s entertaining,” Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said according to NHL.com. “We all remember in Sochi with T.J. Oshie and I remember going back even further in the (2007) World Juniors, I think it was Peter Mueller versus Jonathan Toews. That was a lot of drama and they kept scoring. It was great. It’s certainly something to consider. It’s a good idea.”
The NHL and NHLPA had agreed to streamline goalie gear, which seemed to have gotten too big in recent years, for this season. At the general managers meeting last March the league sounded bullish that new gear would be ready for 2016-17. But this plan has reportedly hit a snag based on equipment manufacturers and other issues. General managers were hopeful that this issue could be resolved soon.
“The manufacturers are holding this up as far as getting this to where it should be. I’m told it’s close. How close is close? I can’t answer that,” Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello told the Toronto Star.
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