Bettman says expansion unclear, John Scott controversy is ‘closed issue’

Bettman says expansion unclear, John Scott controversy is ‘closed issue’

NASHVILLE – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the League continues to study whether expansion to Las Vegas and Quebec City makes sense, and considers the John Scott All-Star Game controversy “a closed matter.”

Those were two of the hotter subjects in Bettman’s “state of the NHL address” in Nashville on Saturday before the NHL All-Star Game skills competition.

On expansion, Bettman said the “process is continuing” after the League’s executive committee – the owners charged with exploring the issue – met two weeks ago.

“We’re not ready to make a recommendation. It can be no expansion, one team or two teams,” he said, reiterating that the methodical pace of the process is not indicative of any problems in that process. “I don’t think they’re struggling at all,” he said of the committee.

Bettman said there are many considerations regarding expansion. One of them is how those rosters (or that roster) would be populated through an expansion draft, and Bettman said NHL franchises would need a year lead-time to make their necessary roster adjustments. But expansion for the 2017-18 season is still a possibility.

Bettman was asked if the Canadian dollar’s impact on the Quebec City bid may have thrown a wrench in their plan. “Could that be a factor? I don’t know as we haven’t finished our deliberations,” said Bettman.

As for the notion that the NHL is stalling to give a Seattle NHL expansion bid time to come together, Bettman again said there’s no current momentum.

“It is what it is. As things stand right now, there’s no prospect for the foreseeable future for a new arena in downtown Seattle. We’re focused on Quebec City and Las Vegas, so that’s not even on our radar screen,” he said.

“At this point, if someone wanted to give us [an expansion] application, we wouldn’t take it.”

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On John Scott

The John Scott controversy was addressed as well, as Scott revealed in a piece in The Players’ Tribune that the NHL pressured him to decline his spot in the NHL All-Star Game despite winning the fan vote, and asked him what his “daughters would think” about his playing in the game.

“Our most important concern was that he was comfortable being here,” said Bettman, “I’m not going to get into who said what.”

Bettman said that accusation was “not relevant,” as the League welcomed Scott to the All-Star Game.

“There were a number of discussions with him, with either NHL personnel and Arizona Coyotes personnel about whether we wanted to come. He had a decision to make on whether he wanted to be here. Once he made that decision, it was a closed issue from that standpoint. He wanted to come here, and he wanted to be here.”

On The Salary Cap

Bettman said the Canadian dollar’s plunge could affect next year’s salary cap, but not in a significant way.

“If the Canadian dollar goes down, that number gets a little softer,” he said. “The cap accounts for fluctuations in the Canadian dollar, and the teams are aware of this conceptually. When you’re dealing with a cap of over $70 million, whether or not you’re a couple million dollars more or less” isn’t all that disrupting.

On Fighting

With fighting down yet again this season, Bettman said it’s something that's organically leaving the game because the game has changed. "The game is so competitive now, teams are focused more on skill,” he said. “You need four lines that help you win the game, and that’s been the focus.”

On the 2018 Olympics

Bettman said the last discussion the NHL had with the IIHF was a few months ago. There are issues with travel and insurance expenses that have to be address with the IIHF and the IOC, and Bettman said no decision was going to be made on the Games in the near future – especially with the NHL’s focus on its own World Cup of Hockey.

On Patrick Kane

According to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, the League is still conducting its own investigation and “it remains ongoing.” When that investigation is concluded, the NHL will “make an announcement.”

On The Concussion Lawsuit

Bettman said the League isn’t concerned with the release of documents involved in the concussion lawsuit its facing from former players.

“I think the selective leaking of documents out of context may cause some people to scratch their head, some other people to maybe to, for a brief moment, be a little embarrassed about salty language, or the like. But I’m very comfortable with our record,” he said.

“I’d prefer these things not be public. But they’re a distraction at best.”

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.