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As always, people around the league were theorizing this week that perhaps there's a double standard when it comes to league discipline and star players.
The latest comes from "slew footing" incidents involving Evgeny Artyukhin and Alex Ovechkin in back-to-back nights. One player received a three-game suspension and one player was fined, respectively. But before we buy into the conspiracy theory of a double standard, let's also look at the facts:
Artyukhin is now a three-time repeat offender who also was fined in preseason for slew footing a player who didn't have the puck. At the time, league disciplinarian Colin Campbell again warned Artyukhin. Now, in my opinion, on the surface, as a stand-alone incident, Wednesday night's slew foot of Dallas defenseman Matt Niskanen did not warrant three games. I might have given him one game for that. But I think what you have here is a player in Artyukhin who was suspended last season for a knee-on-knee hit on Ville Peltonen and fined/warned just three weeks ago for slew footing. Was the three-gamer too much? Maybe. But he asked for it.
Now, back to Mr. Ovechkin, who slew-footed Atlanta's Rich Peverley on Thursday night. Ovechkin is not a repeat offender and doesn't have the rap sheet Artyukhin does. So that comes into play in Campbell's decision. But don't think the league ignored it. They reviewed it, and I'm told Campbell had a chat with Ovechkin on Friday before fining him $2,500, the maximum allowed. If the Caps superstar does it again, he'll get in bigger trouble.
Who wants to be an owner?
Remember this name: Bill Gallacher.
He's a businessman from Calgary, Alberta, with lots of dough, and he's let it be known through the grapevine he might be interested in owning an NHL team.
In September, as chairman of Athabasca Oil Sands Corp., he sold assets to China worth $1.9 billion. He's got a lot more money now and he's a huge hockey fan with season tickets to the NHL's Flames and WHL's Hitmen in Calgary.
Gallacher owns the Western Hockey League's Portland Winter Hawks, but I'm told he's looking to get into the big game, as well. The NHL, I'm told, knows of Gallacher's interest, but has yet to officially meet with him.
And know this: he's not looking for a fight a la Jim Balsillie; Gallacher wants to go in the front door to the NHL. He's not looking to uproot a team from somewhere in the U.S. and move it to his native Canada.
Gallacher has apparently hired someone to help him study the NHL landscape and advise him on his next move. There are a handful of possible teams for sale, starting in Phoenix, but one team to perhaps keep an eye on is Dallas, where Stars owner Tom Hicks may want to sell at some point as he deals with his huge financial obligations with the Liverpool soccer team. The Stars are not for sale right now, but keep an eye on that one.
Veteran winger Brendan Shanahan is still skating at home in the New York area, still hoping to catch on with another NHL team. I'm told the Philadelphia Flyers have some mild interest in him and have talked to his camp. The Flyers also tried to sign him this past summer before he chose to return to New Jersey (he's since left the Devils) and the Flyers also looked at him last season. Does it make sense for the Flyers to act on this now? I think that's a question they're trying to answer right now.
There have been rumors out there regarding the future of Marc Savard in Boston because he's an unrestricted free agent. But I'm told Savard is not going anywhere and the Bruins have already begun contract talks on an extension to keep him in Boston. That was part of the reason for the Chuck Kobasew deal last Sunday -- to open up as much cap space as possible going forward. However, having talks and getting a deal done are two different matters. Keep an eye on this one.
Another player who found himself in trade rumors this week was Alexander Frolov after his very public benching. But the fact is, the Los Angeles Kings have not shopped him to other teams, not yet anyway. For now, the Kings hope the talented winger figures things out and becomes part of the solution.
Having said that, preliminary contract talks that began in September for the potential unrestricted free agent have since been put on hold as the team and player figure things out. One of the apparent issues is that some people believe he doesn't care. But others who know him well will tell you he's got the kind of personality that doesn't show a lot of emotion, and that doesn't mean he doesn't care. We'll definitely need to revisit this one later in the season.
The mercurial forward, still stuck in AHL Hamilton, keeps threatening to go to Russia. Except, he's been told what risk is associated with that: no Olympics. He's earmarked as one of the few NHL-caliber players who will play for Belarus at the Vancouver Games in February. Kostitsyn would be suspended by the Canadiens if he went to the KHL because he's under a valid NHL contract. And according to new IIHF transfer regulations adopted in May, he would be playing in the KHL without a valid international transfer card since he's already under NHL contract. As a result, he'd face IIHF suspension and thus would not be able to play in an IIHF-sanctioned competition, which of course includes the Olympics. Get all that?
You may have noticed this week that veteran center Michael Nylander was sent to AHL Grand Rapids on a conditioning assignment. Because of his no-movement clause, he had to OK the assignment and he did because he knows he has to showcase himself in order to facilitate a move.
I'm told a few KHL teams are still interested, but they want to see him play to make sure he's not out of shape. Now they'll get a look at him. The Caps also could still be holding out hope that an NHL team might step forward if they like what they see in Grand Rapids. But the contract is tough to take on -- $5.5 million this season and $3 million next season.
It's interesting to note, however, that his no-movement clause disappears after this season. Why does that matter? Well, let's say you're an NHL team that figures Nylander can help this season, but you're not too interested in the other year on his deal. With the no-movement clause gone next summer, you are free to move him anywhere and you're also free to put him in the minors or re-entry waivers. When the no-movement clause is in effect, teams are severely limited with their options.
What's interesting with Nylander is just what happened to him. I was a big fan of this guy; he was a very talented center for many years, and perhaps still is. But I'm told when an apparent deal with the Chicago Blackhawks fell through last season, he was never the same. He had his heart set on joining the Hawks and was shattered when the deal didn't happen.