Gary Bettman responds to Senators’ Andlauer, talks Olympics, Shane Pinto suspension

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman discusses Ottawa Senators owner Michael Andlauer's criticism of the penalty given to his team for their role in the voided trade involving Evgenii Dadonov, which saw them lose a first-round pick in an upcoming draft.

STOCKHOLM — Could Evgenii Dadonov be the new Ilya Kovalchuk?

In 2010, the New Jersey Devils were punished with the forfeiture of a first-round draft pick for circumventing the salary cap on Kovalchuk’s voided 17-year contract. The Devils delayed selecting which year to lose the pick, waited until tensions cooled and, four years later, the NHL reduced the punishment, slotting Jersey 30th (last) in the first round of the ’14 draft.

Could brand-new Senators owner Michael Andlauer, incensed at the steepness of his club’s punishment for botching Dadonov’s no-trade list, pull a Lou Lamoriello? Could the Sens salvage the lost pick down the road?

“I consider the matter closed,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday in Stockholm, where he is promoting the Global Series. “But I’m always open for dialogue with owners on any subject they want at any point in time.” 

Bettman says Andlauer is free to express himself and reach out to the league at any time.

Andlauer did not bite his tongue when addressing the Dadonov ruling a couple weeks ago.

“Why I inherited this is beyond me,” the owner said. “There’s no reason for (the Dadonov ruling) to last that long. I knew about it… and it was basically, from the seller’s perspective, it was really a non-issue. I don’t know if a first-rounder is a non-issue to you guys, but it is to me.”

Bettman was given a chance to respond to Andlauer Thursday.

“I’m not gonna get into a public debate with Michael Andlauer. I don’t think that’s constructive for him, me, or the league,” Bettman said. 

“I’m more than comfortable with what we did. And maybe on reflection, Michael will be, if he’s not already, more comfortable with the way things were handled.”

Free advice to Andlauer: Wait until the final year of the sacrificed draft pick, then petition for a lessened punishment.

The Sphere would make a spectacular draft sendoff

Bettman wants you to know that the forthcoming shift to a remote draft — where GMs and scouts hunker down in their respective cities — was not the league’s idea but rather one brought forth by a few teams hoping to streamline the process.

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So, the NHL polled its teams: If that’s what you want, we’ll make the change.

“Surprisingly to some of us, we had an overwhelming response that we should try to pursue a new draft format,” Daly said.

The league’s decision-makers would prefer one final send-off of the traditional draft, with all 32 GMs on the floor, pressing flesh and stirring trade speculation. But if the pieces don’t fall into place, a remote draft could take place as early as 2024. (By 2025, for sure.)

Las Vegas is the preferred destination, with its glitzy backdrop and nearly unlimited hotel options, but not the only one being explored for the June event.

A dream scenario for the NHL: Take over The Sphere.

This would be expensive and complicated to pull off from a technical standpoint, but would allow the traditional draft to go out with a bang.

The league has taken note that the Vegas F1 race has incorporated the outside of the high-tech landmark into its event.

But what if the NHL were the first to hold a draft inside?

Pinto betting suspension resulted from lack of ‘common sense’

While specifics of Shane Pinto‘s break of NHL betting protocol remain vague, one of the by-products of the unsigned forward’s 41-game suspension has been a questioning of whether or not NHL players have been properly informed what they can and cannot do with regards to wagering.

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“What’s clear is there was no betting on NHL hockey, but there are lots of ways that you can involve yourself in sports betting that are inappropriate. Most of them are common sense, OK?” Bettman said. 

“Without telling you what Shane did or didn’t do, if you’re in a jurisdiction where you’re not supposed to be betting, you shouldn’t be betting. If you’re betting on a platform that says you shouldn’t be sharing an account, you shouldn’t be sharing an account. Or in a jurisdiction where people shouldn’t be placing bets for you, you shouldn’t be doing that. 

“I mean, there’s a litany of things that, as a matter of common sense, people know. And the players get briefed on this annually by security. We do briefings on it at the rookie orientation program. There’s no surprise here.”

Bettman was pressed as to how a player not under contract — Pinto is still a restricted free agent — can begin serving a ban.

“My guess is he doesn’t have a contract because of the suspension,” Bettman said. “People knew that he was being investigated.

“I presumed that his team didn’t think it was a good idea to sign him while the investigation was going on. So, in fact, that was sort of de facto suspension.”

Bottom line: The league wanted to make sure Pinto would not be paid for a half a season.

The long wait for best-on-best…

The NHL and its Players Association are still hopeful to host an international tournament in February 2025, one that involves more countries than simply a U.S. versus Canada miniseries.

Of course, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ongoing, a true best-on-best will have to wait.

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The goal is to alternate between World Cups and Olympic participation and solidify a true international calendar of competition. A major step toward that end is confirming the NHLers participation at the 2026 Winter Games in Milan.

“That is still a work-in-progress. It’s something that all parties are aligned in terms of trying to make happen,” Daly said. “Hopefully in the next couple of months, we’ll have a good understanding of where we are on that.

Protect your neck

As a few NHLers begin choosing neck protection in the aftermath of Adam Johnson’s tragic death, Bettman reminds that the league cannot outright mandate or enforce equipment changes.

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These matters must be agreed upon in conjunction with the PA, and the two sides are discussing the matter. The league maintains it has been studying cut protection for 13 years.

For what it’s worth, the commissioner himself encourages it.

“When my son was playing high school hockey and came off the ice from a practice, he said the coach said neck guards are voluntary,” Bettman shared. 

“And my wife said: ‘No, they’re not.’ So that’s my view.”

One-Timers: While PA chief Marty Walsh has made it clear that the Coyotes players deserve to ply their trade in a proper NHL-sized arena, the anticipates long-term Arizona plans to get locked down “at some point in the middle of this season.” The NHL remains hopeful for a proper rink in the Greater Phoenix Area…. Bettman on the prolonged wait for a resolution to the 2018 Hockey Canada scandal: “Hopefully much, much, much closer to the end of our own process of dealing with it.”… Bettman believes Sportico’s recent estimates of all 32 NHL franchise values are too low.

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