Gary Bettman discusses Panthers

Updated: September 23, 2013, 7:12 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the sale of the Florida Panthers is in progress and that he anticipates a timely resolution to their ownership situation.

"I know the two parties are working very hard on the transaction. They're going to try to consummate that as quickly as possible," Bettman said after Monday's Board of Governors meeting at the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan.

The New York Post reported the sale of the team last week, saying it was "imminent," with the mystery owner believed to be businessman Vincent Viola, according to a report by South Florida's 640-AM Sports.

Cliff Viner has been the majority owner of the struggling franchise, which finished with the worst record in the league last season, since 2009.

"They are working on concluding the transaction as quickly as possible," Bettman said, though he did not confirm the interested ownership group involved.

Bettman would not answer questions about the anticipated timeline of the transaction, but said that "it's on track."

A source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun last week that the sale could be completed in the next month, barring any complications. That situation and the recent ownership changes elsewhere in the league -- New Jersey, Phoenix -- were topics of discussion during the meeting, a state of the league-type affair.

Also discussed were the proposed rule changes, including the controversial hybrid-icing rule.

Several players have spoken out against it already, including New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, but the NHLPA must choose to approve or disapprove by the start of the season.

Bettman said that executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell polled general managers over the weekend to gauge their feelings on the rule.

"While some raised some issues and questions, I still think the vast majority still favor hybrid icing," Bettman said.

Bettman acknowledged that there was some discussions about the projected salary cap for next season, though he declined to elaborate further.

"It's really too preliminary to share because while we've gotten some estimates and revenues from clubs, they haven't been vetted yet," Bettman said. "It would really be too early to tell. I think we'll have a much better idea when the board reconvenes in December."

Bettman was also asked about the apparent loophole in the new amendment to Rule 46, in which a player is penalized for taking off his own helmet before a fight. During a Devils-Islanders game on Thursday, Devils enforcer Krys Barch and Islanders tough guy Brett Gallant found a way to skirt that rule by tipping off each other's helmets before fighting.

"We're going to have to keep an eye on that," Bettman said. "The reasons we want the helmets on is a matter of player safety."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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