DENVER – The Stanley Cup will not be used for celebratory photo ops in Russia this summer.
While the National Hockey League has continued to promote its Russian stars, will allow Russian prospects to be drafted into the league and has not closed the door (so far) on Russia’s participation in its planned 2024 World Cup of Hockey, the NHL is taking a stand with its iconic championship trophy.
With Russian players on both the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning, those winners will be denied the opportunity to bring the Cup to Russia or Belarus in light of the invasion of Ukraine, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday.
Both teams have been made aware of this decision, which will disrupt the usual tradition of giving each winner a day with Lord Stanley’s mug in the place of his choice.
“We may owe a Cup trip in the future,” Daly said. “That can happen, just like we've done with the pandemic. But it's not happening this summer.”
Here are a few more takeaways from commissioner Gary Bettman and Daly’s annual meeting with the press ahead of Game 1.
Kane case on pause
As far as the NHL is concerned, the San Jose Sharks’ termination of Evander Kane’s long-term contract — running through 2024-25 at a $7 million AAV — is valid.
Hence, Kane was permitted to sign as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers mid-season and will be permitted to either re-sign with Edmonton or sign as a free agent with another team on July 13.
The power forward, however, has filed a grievance with the Sharks, arguing that his contract be reinstated in full. That case, Daly said, is on hold through June because the arbitrator is not available.
The case will pick up in early summer, but the arbitrator’s ruling might not be finalized in time for opening of free agency.
Kane and the Sharks still have the option of settling before a ruling.
Theoretically, if the arbitrator rules in favour of Kane and believes his original contract be reinstated, any new contract he signs would be superseded.
This makes for a fascinating decision for both the coveted UFA and any team trying to bring him in the fold.
Revenues reach record high
Bettman proudly announced that league revenues for 2021-22 should be “in excess of $5.2 billion.” In fact, he said that estimate might be conservative.
The league’s two-headed U.S. broadcasting rights deal, and the enthusiastic marketing push of ESPN and TNT, certainly helped this jump, as did the reopening of arenas. (Inflation also provides a boost.)
Despite the financial windfall, the league’s salary cap will increase by only $1 million for 2022-23, as the NHL and the NHLPA recover from the pandemic.
The commissioner estimates that in “two, maybe three years” we’ll begin to see more normal (i.e., larger) jumps in the cap ceiling from year to year.
Hockey Canada investigation underway
The NHL expects to interview every player on Canada’s 2018 world junior team during an investigation opened after a lawsuit was settled by Hockey Canada and the CHL. In the lawsuit, a woman alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight CHL players — including some members of that world junior team — after an event in London, Ont., in 2018.
The allegations have not been proven in court and the NHL is investigating whether any of its players were involved.
"We've been in touch with the players’ association,” Daly said. “They've been extremely cooperative."
Daly and Bettman said they were not aware of the alleged assault until the lawsuit was filed in April.
Further, the NHL will release the findings of its investigation upon completion.
“We try to be transparent,” Bettman said.
Bank on World Cup 2024, but the exact timing is in debate
Daly says the NHL is "very optimistic" it will be holding a World Cup of Hockey in 2024.
The league prefers to throw the best-on-best international tournament in February, but there is some push by the clubs to have it in autumn, before the 2024-25 season. (The 2016 World Cup was held in September.)
Discussion between the league, the NHLPA, the IIHF and the clubs on the details of the event will continue.
“Upper-body” and “lower-body” injuries aren’t going anywhere
Regarding a request by gamblers that teams be forced to get specific about player injuries, Daly shot down the idea.
The UBI and LBIs are here to stay, Daly argues, for the protection of the injured athletes.
“If our betting partners have to take back seat to health and safety of our players, so be it,” Daly said.
The NHL anticipates returning to a more normal schedule in 2022-23. The season will open on Oct. 11. A full schedule will be released in early July. ... There is no traction to tweak the CBA’s long-term-injury reserve rules, which permit clubs to exceed the cap come playoff time. “I see how all 32 of our clubs operate, and I can tell you Tampa would not be the one I’d put at the top of the list,” Daly said. ... Everything is status quo regarding Ottawa Senators ownership. The late Eugene Melnyk left the team to his daughters, Anna and Olivia, and an arena move to LeBreton Flats is still being explored. “The franchise is completely stable and functioning in normal course," Bettman said.