Cross Checks: Marc-Andre Bergeron

Whether it's coincidence or not, the Washington Capitals have won two straight since the Alex Ovechkin-Ilya Kovalchuk laughing controversy.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau told ESPN.com Saturday that he believes the incident after last Monday's 5-0 loss in New Jersey actually brought the team together even though he thinks it was exaggerated.

"I was doing my press conference and there was a laugh and I looked over," Boudreau said. "But it wasn't Ovi that laughed, it was Kovalchuk that laughed. I don't know what Ovi said in Russian, maybe something like, 'Boy, did we suck.' And Kovalchuk laughed. It was like someone clapping real loud. It's a noise that startles you. So you look over. I made nothing of it."

My colleague and friend Cory Masisak certainly did in an interesting piece that raised eyebrows in D.C.

Boudreau realizes the optics weren't great.

"I can understand as an old-school guy, we never used to talk to our opponents," Boudreau said. "But in hockey's new age, you see it after every game."

The coach chatted with his franchise player about it.

"The next day, we talked about a lot of things, that was just a very brief part of it," Boudreau said. "He said to me, 'That was just my friend and we were just talking after a game.' I said, 'I know, I know.' But when you lose 5-0, people accentuate more than it is. To us, it was a nothing deal."

Boudreau also understands the desire for players of the same country to touch base after games.

"When I played in Europe, if there was a Canadian on the other team, even if I didn't know him I would wait after the game for him," Boudreau said. "Just to talk in our native language, or just to catch up. I'd like to compare notes on how teams were treating us over there. Do they pay the bills? That's what Canadians wanted to know over there. So we were always waiting to talk to guys after the game. I can see that if you're Russian, Swedish, German, whatever, that maybe having a chance to talk to a hometown friend you haven't seen in a while in your native language after a game, it's a big deal."

Sens' work doesn't generate traction


The up-and-down Senators have worked the phones hard all season long but still no move.

"We do continue to talk and attempt to shore up our team, but at this point there is nothing," Sens GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com Saturday.

Murray would not get into specifics, but a league source told ESPN.com that the veteran GM sent a memo to the other 29 teams saying defenseman Brian Lee was available and that hasn't generated much traction at this point. Meanwhile, other sources told ESPN.com that the Sens have received calls from other teams inquiring about forward Nick Foligno, who didn't have a goal this season entering Saturday night's game against Toronto. Not sure the Sens, however, would want to give up on him this early in the game when he's only 23 years old, but I guess stranger things have happened.

Coyotes sale still not there


The sale of the Phoenix Coyotes from the NHL to a group led by Chicago businessman Mathew Hulsizer is inching closer but it’s still not there.

A source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com Friday that he believed the aim was to close before Christmas. A final lease agreement with the city of Glendale has progressed, said the source, but still hasn't been finalized, either.

Another source told ESPN.com that while the sale was progressing, it would not be completed in time for the Dec. 6-7 Board of Governors in Palm Beach, Fla. But that's not the end of the world since NHL owners can vote on team sales via fax at any time.

Avery Rule in Effect


Quite the gutsy call by young referee Ghislain Hebert when he disallowed Mike Richards' overtime goal Friday and called Chris Pronger for an unsportsmanlike penalty for waiving his glove in front of Miikka Kiprusoff's face.

We call it the Sean Avery rule but in fact it never was a new rule, more a new interpretation of an existing rule -- unsportsmanlike conduct. The NHL released a memo during the playoffs a few years ago after Avery was waiving his glove in front of Martin Brodeur's face.

I checked with the league on Saturday and this was the first time the penalty had been called for this specific reason since Avery.

"It has not been called since then," Terry Gregson, director of officiating for the NHL, told ESPN.com via email. "The spirit and intent of the USC rule is to keep an acceptable hockey decorum in the game, in this case when a player is screening. This type of act is outside the normal boundaries and needs to be controlled for the good of the game."

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren sent Gregson an e-mail to underline his disagreement with the call and Gregson explained to Holmgren why it was the right one. Personally, I think it was the right call. Pronger's glove was in the face of Kiprusoff -- the tape doesn't lie.

Chelios coming out of retirement?


Reports out of Russia over the past few days linked a few KHL teams to retired blueliner Chris Chelios, 48. TSN's Darren Dreger confirmed Friday that there were at least talks between KHL club Vityaz and the Chelios camp.

In fact, Chelios told ESPN.com that two KHL teams were in the mix.

"Two teams are looking for a D-man, so might as well listen," Chelios told me via text message. "Just sniffin' around, nothing serious."

Bergeron gets final clearance


Unrestricted free-agent blueliner Marc-Andre Bergeron got the final clearance from doctors Thursday and can resume his NHL career after recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Bergeron, 30, can help a power play, as he did last season when he potted 13 goals and 21 assists in 60 games with the Montreal Canadiens. He had 14 goals and 18 assists in 72 games the season before in Minnesota. You know what you're getting in Bergeron, a power-play force with a heavy shot but a defensive liability in his zone. Still, double-digit goals can only help a team in dire need of power-play help.

The Florida Panthers have the lowest ranked power play in the NHL, but GM Dale Tallon told ESPN.com Saturday that, at this point, his team wasn't involved in talks with Bergeron. While Tallon would not say, I suspect the reason is that he'd have to unload a contract before he could ever think of phoning the Bergeron camp. Columbus (ranked 28th on the PP), Nashville (27th), St. Louis (24th), the Islanders (17th), the Rangers (14th) and the Coyotes (13th), also all told me they weren't in on Bergeron.

What about the Devils and their 29th-ranked PP? There's a blue line that needs an injection and I believe there is some interest there. I also think the Dallas Stars, ranked 22nd on the PP, have a bit of interest in him.

Ken Holland is pushing forward with his idea for a new overtime format and plans to table it next month at the GMs meeting in Toronto.

The respected Red Wings GM wants to expand overtime to eight minutes from the current five: 4-on-4 for four minutes and 3-on-3 for the remaining four minutes. He also wants to ensure better ice quality for the extended overtime by having the ice scraped (not flooded) after regulation time.

He pushed the original concept this past March at the GMs meeting, and while it didn't fly at the time, Holland believes it's growing on fellow GMs.

"I think there's a groundswell of support," Holland told ESPN.com.

I like it, too. Too many games were decided by shootouts last season and this would ensure more results would come from a more traditional fashion. The shootout would remain, but wouldn't be used as frequently. And besides, 3-on-3 hockey is a lot of fun to watch.

Red Wings' roster issues

Well, here we go again. The Detroit Red Wings dressed only 17 skaters for Saturday's game at Phoenix, one below the CBA-mandated 18.

Jonathan Ericsson (back), Justin Abdelkader (ribs), Johan Franzen (head), Brian Rafalski (knee) and Kris Draper (groin) were all out with injuries.

The problem is the Wings don't have enough cap room to call up a player; they used up the rest of that room with Doug Janik's call-up this past week. The only way for the Wings to call up a player now is if one of those injured players goes on long-term injured reserve, in which case the Wings could go over the cap. The problem is, any player on LTIR has to be out a minimum of 10 games and 23 days. Right now, the Wings don't believe any of their injured guys will be out that long.

So like New Jersey on Monday and Wednesday, Detroit had to ice a lineup that's below the mandated 18 skaters and two goalies. The Wings can get away with it because this would be considered an "emergency" situation as defined in Section 16.4b of the collective-bargaining agreement.

The fact is, despite all the attention the Devils got for this last week, a source told ESPN.com on Friday that teams have iced less than 18 skaters "six or seven times a season" since the lockout, it just hasn't got this much attention before other than when Calgary did it in 2008-09.

As for the Devils, the league believes they complied with "emergency" circumstances as defined in the CBA. Having said that, I'm told the league would have been troubled had the Devils continued it for a week or more and would have leaned on them.

The NHL Players' Association has serious issues with the language regarding this rule and I think it's an issue it wants to clean up for the next CBA. But for now, there's really not much the union can do. After all, the Devils' players were OK with playing with a shortened bench; it was better than having a teammate sent down for nothing other than cap reasons.

Thornton's new deal

As I hinted at last week, Joe Thornton indeed re-upped with the Sharks on Saturday. He left some money (but especially term) on the table by not exploring free agency on July 1, but he doesn't care. He told Sharks GM Doug Wilson he wanted to sign a deal that helped the Sharks stay competitive. At three years and $21 million, it's a small pay cut from the $7.2 million he's making under his expiring deal.

"Joe's life is in San Jose, and that's his team," brother/agent John Thornton told ESPN.com on Saturday. "He didn't want to even think about going somewhere else."

"No better place to play in the league," Joe Thornton told ESPN.com via text Saturday.

Believe me, a center of Thornton's stature on the open market is looking at between $8-$9 million a season and six to eight years in length. He gave the Sharks a break here.

"This is where the players truly step up for their organization and their teammates," Wilson told us Saturday.

Patrick Marleau could have also played the market last summer, but also chose to stay in San Jose for four years and $6.9 million a year. It's a contract that pays well, but he would have received more term and a bit more salary on the open market (starting with Los Angeles, I believe).

Say what you want about the Sharks, who continue to search for their first championship, but the actions of Thornton and Marleau, and even Joe Pavelski (four years, $16 million), speak volumes. The Sharks don't like the kind of long-term deals that have permeated across the league and have still been able to re-sign their core players without having a single contract go past the 2013-14 season.

"I take that as the greatest compliment," Wilson said of his core players playing ball with him on contracts.

Thornton's contract breakdown: $7 million salary next season plus a $1 million signing bonus; $6 million for 2012-13 season and $1 million signing bonus on July 14, 2012 (the birthday of Thornton's newborn daughter, Ayla); $6 million for 2013-14 season.

The clever thing here is, should there be a lockout in 2012-13, Thornton has $9 million guaranteed in the bank before then.

The latest on Souray

Sheldon Souray made his AHL debut with Hershey on Friday night, picking up an assist and posting a plus-3 rating in a 7-1 rout over the Binghamton. He likely hopes it was the first of not too many nights in the minors. Here's what I'm told the Edmonton Oilers are thinking at this point:

1. Do they eventually put him on re-entry waivers and live with paying him half of the remainder of his contract once another team picks him up at half the price?

2. Or do they continue to wait to make a hockey deal, which they've been doing for more than a year, and perhaps not move him until June, when he's suddenly more attractive to teams because he only has a year left on his deal?

I'm told the New York Rangers are mildly interested in Souray, but likely the only route for them is via re-entry waivers, where he'd come at half the price of his $4.5 million salary (his cap hit is actually $5.4 million this season and next).

Several reports since last summer have also linked the Columbus Blue Jackets to Souray, but two sources told ESPN.com this weekend that as of now, the interest isn't there from the Jackets. Of course, that could change.

Craig Anderson

It sure will be interesting to see what develops on the Craig Anderson front in Colorado. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1, and other than a brief chat between agent Justin Duberman and the team during training camp, real contract talks have not yet begun.

My question is, what's Colorado waiting for? I understand the Avs were busy with re-signing Chris Stewart and Peter Mueller in early September, but the longer they wait on Anderson, the more money it's going to cost them. Last season, the dude proved he's a stud goalie. He made more saves than any other NHL goalie and should have deserved more serious consideration for the Vezina Trophy. His 41-save performance Friday night in New Jersey was further proof.

His cap hit is $1.812 million, meaning he's in for a nice raise. But I suspect he also doesn't want to leave Colorado, the first team to give him a starting gig. Still, if I'm Colorado, I'd get on this sooner rather than later.

Marc-Andre Bergeron

The UFA defenseman has an important doctor's visit this upcoming week, which will determine his progress after ACL surgery in late June. He had the same surgery as Andrei Markov, but four weeks later. Teams struggling on the power play should be keeping an eye on this guy. The offensive blueliner had 13 goals last season for the Habs and was an important part of the team's second-ranked power play. His defensive deficiencies are obvious, but he's produced double-digit goals from the point four times in his career. He'll come at a bargain-basement price, too.

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