Auston Matthews’ mission at the NHL All-Star Game was simple: don’t get injured, and if you get the chance maybe try and convince a top-pairing defenseman to come to Toronto.
The Maple Leafs superstar succeeded on the first front of this clearly made-up mandate, and he at least put forth a valiant effort on the second, according to reporters in attendance.
Can’t blame him for trying. The Leafs really could use a top-end defenseman and there aren’t many better than Doughty, a good ol’ Ontario boy whose contract is set to expire in 2019.
Matthews wasn’t the only one playing travelling salesman, as a number of players tried to sell their team to the best players in the game throughout the weekend.
This sort of thing probably happens every time players from other teams get together at a big event, so pump the brakes before ratcheting up the tampering talk. It’s just friendly banter, far removed from the personal or economic realities of the business side of hockey.
But it’s not always seen that way, at least in other sports. Remember the whole kerfuffle that ensued at the 2016 MLB All-Star Game when David Ortiz jokingly made the suggestion — a reasonable one, at that — that Boston should sign Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion, prompting MLB to issue a warning to the Red Sox legend?
Tampering is pretty rare in the NHL, although it does happen. Canucks GM Jim Benning had to fork over $50,000 in 2016 for violating NHL by-law 15 when he said he wanted to add Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban (you don’t say) in the offseason. The Maple Leafs also got hit with a tampering fine in 2009 after then head coach Ron Wilson expressed interest in the Sedin Twins during a radio interview before they re-signed in Vancouver when free agency opened.
But those situations were a little different than NHL players cracking jokes with their buddies during an all-star game. Hopefully for the sake of reason and logic the NHL sees it the same way, which one imagines they will.