Weekend wrap: Gonchar talks, equipment rules

October, 10, 2009

The mayor of Quebec City, Regis Labeaume, and former Nordiques president Marcel Aubut met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday in New York to discuss the Quebec City's possible return to the NHL.

I'm told the chat revolved around the need for a new arena, a good owner and corporate support. Obviously, fan support is not an issue. I'm told Bettman encouraged the mayor to continue what he's doing (trying to get a new arena built), but there were no promises made by the NHL. They also agreed to stay in touch with each other.

Does this mean there will be an NHL team in Quebec City again? Not necessarily. But certainly if the new rink is built, the league would have the city on its short list.

Goaltending equipment
This season, we were supposed to see the integration of "size-to-fit" or "form-fitting" goalie pads to go along with goaltenders' size-to-fit pants and upper-body equipment.

But the pads, the most controversial item, have not been changed. Two NHL governors I spoke with are upset about it. The governors voted for these changes back in June 2008. Hockey operations man Kay Whitmore, who is the goaltending supervisor for the league, has done a ton of work on this. All the equipment manufacturers were on board with the new pads, but the NHL Players' Association has put it in limbo because it balked last spring at how the new pads were measured.

The two goalies who apparently would have had to shorten the pads the most were Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury and Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff. Under the changes, pads would be limited in height by the specific measurements of each individual goalie, instead of a uniform maximum pad size as they are now. The league still hopes to see the rules change go into effect next season. The point of all this, of course, is to give shooters more open space.

Nylander and the Caps
The Washington Capitals, I'm told, have been close a couple of times over the past few weeks in loaning veteran center Michael Nylander to a KHL team in Russia. But it hasn't happened yet. The Caps would still have to pay him the majority of his salary ($5.5 million this season, $3 million next season), but, at least under this scenario, they could get a Russian team to offset some of the salary. Plus, the big bonus for the Caps would be getting his $4.875 million cap hit totally off the books. There's still hope something will work out with a Russian team. Jaromir Jagr is apparently pushing his team, Avangard Omsk, to land his former NHL teammate.

NHL GM award
The Jack Adams Award is given to the top coach of the year, so why not an award for GM of the year? Last season, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke proposed that the league establish an award for GMs, and the GMs agreed to move on it in June. But it wasn't clear when exactly it would happen. It now appears as though it is a go for this season and should be awarded for the first time in June at the NHL awards.

Right now, there's still no name for it. If it were up to me, I'd call it the Sam Pollock Award. I mean, has there been a more successful GM in NHL history? His nine Cups with the Habs remains untouched in terms of championships won by a GM.

There's also still no firm decision on who exactly will vote for it. The most popular idea right now is the voters would be a blend of GMs, league hockey operations staff and some media members. The Jack Adams Award is voted on by the broadcasters, while most of the rest of the awards are voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. GMs vote on the Vezina Trophy.

NHLPA update
The next executive board (player reps) conference call is Oct. 18. The tentative plan is for two committees to be named during that call: one to look at possible changes in the constitution and a second to begin the search for a new executive director. But from what I'm being told, there may be disagreement on who exactly gets to be on these committees.

The divide continues among player reps. Chris Chelios wants Ron Pink and Buzz Hargrove fired from their NHLPA jobs. Other reps just want to move on. To be continued, on As The Union Turns, on Oct. 18 ...

Meanwhile, player rep elections continue around the league, and you can expect a number of new faces.

Penguins and Gonchar
The Penguins met with Sergei Gonchar's agent, J.P. Barry, just before the season started, but both sides have agreed to postpone the next round of talks until January, when GM Ray Shero will have a better idea of next season's salary cap. Gonchar is slated for unrestricted free agency on July 1.

Some European countries were pushing for the return of a taxi squad for the Olympics, but, at this point, it doesn't look like it'll happen. You may remember, at the Torino Winter Games in 2006, each country, including the U.S. and Canada, had three-man taxi squads. They were abolished for the upcoming Vancouver Games, and then some European countries revived the idea. But it appears it won't be brought back.

The Hurricanes
The Hurricanes won't look to the trade market in the aftermath of losing top-six forward Erik Cole for four to six weeks with a leg injury. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford told ESPN.com on Friday night that they'll plug the hole from within, with veteran winger Scott Walker moving up to a more prominent role, while Tim Conboy, who began the season as a healthy scratch, is back in the lineup since Cole's injury. There's also reinforcements on the AHL team, with promising prospects Brandon Sutter and Zach Boychuk in line for a call-up if needed.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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