Roundup: Head-shots rule on fast track

March, 20, 2010

The wheels are in motion regarding the fast-tracking of the new head-shot rule, and we should find out early this week whether it's a go for this season.

The five players on the NHL/NHL Players' Association competition committee -- Ryan Miller, Jason Spezza, Mathieu Schneider, Jeff Halpern and Brian Campbell -- met via conference call Friday afternoon to discuss the rule change, a few hours after receiving a DVD from the NHL explaining what will be deemed legal and illegal hits under the new rule.

The five players on the committee were discussing it further with players on the executive board and their own teammates this weekend, and it's expected they'll have a decision early in the week. The NHLPA will then relay that decision to the NHL. The belief is the players' union will back the new rule, which will include only a provision for supplemental discipline regarding blindside hits for this season. (The rest of the new rule, a minor and major penalty for blindside hits, will be introduced next season.)

In the meantime, while the players appear close to a decision, the final body to vote on the new rule is also ready. The NHL has asked the board of governors (owners) to get back to it by Tuesday on the new rule. The league needs a 30-0 vote to pass a new rule in midseason. While some people wonder if it will get that unanimous vote, one governor I spoke to Saturday said the vote would not be in doubt.

"I'd be shocked [if] we didn't get a 30-0 vote," he said.

So the key in all of this is the players. The league needs a yes vote from the five players on the competition committee. We'll soon find out if it gets it.

As a side note, Toronto Maple Leafs players had a meeting last week with NHLPA divisional rep Rob Zamuner (they met to replace departed reps Matt Stajan and Ian White with new reps Mike Komisarek and Phil Kessel); but the discussion with Zamuner shifted to the new head-shot rule, and the Leafs players told him they unanimously agreed to fast-track it.

"But I wish the league would have taken care of this last summer like we [the players] had asked them to," veteran Leafs blueliner Francois Beauchemin told on Saturday.

Coyotes' ownership search

There was a series of meetings this past Tuesday in Phoenix regarding the future of the Coyotes' ownership, with both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly on hand.

While nobody connected with the NHL would talk about it Saturday, one source connected to the situation told the Ice Edge group, which had signed a letter of intent earlier this season to buy the Coyotes, was no longer the front-runner to purchase the team.

A source told my "Hockey Night in Canada" colleague Elliotte Friedman that Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was back in the picture. Still, Ice Edge remains in the mix and hopes to try to complete the purchase.

If there is no local owner lined up by May, relocation could possibly enter the picture. The city of Glendale is working hard right now to try to avoid that.

Sens' troubles continue

The Senators' post-Olympic free fall continued Saturday with a 5-4 loss at Dallas. Talk about a huge game with the Canadiens in Montreal on Monday night. The team took an unusual step Friday by having owner Eugene Melnyk talk to some players.

"Eugene asked me what he could do to help and I told him maybe he could talk to a few specific players," Sens GM Bryan Murray told before boarding a flight from Dallas to Montreal.

Melnyk phoned captain Daniel Alfredsson, as well as defenseman Chris Phillips and key centers Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza. The last responded with a hat trick and an assist Saturday, but the team still lost.

"I thought we played better today," said Murray. "But we didn't get the saves."

Starter Pascal Leclaire was pulled after giving up the fifth goal.

A return for Gretzky

Team USA Olympic coach Ron Wilson told me Saturday he would not coach the United States in the upcoming world championships in Germany. One possibility would be Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders.

On the Team Canada side of things, Mark Messier, the GM of the worlds team, has had several discussions with Wayne Gretzky, although it's not clear in what capacity, whether it would be as part of the coaching staff or in an advisory capacity. Former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish is believed to be the choice as head coach.

NHLPA constitution

I'm told the NHL Players' Association is very close to being done with its constitutional review. It will require a membership-wide vote for approval. In the meantime, the union can soon begin its executive director search more earnestly now that constitution is mostly taken care of.

Mike Cammalleri

This week, the Montreal Canadiens should see the return of top goal scorer Mike Cammalleri, who has been out since Jan. 30 with a knee injury. I spoke with him at Saturday's pregame skate.

"I'm feeling really good," Cammalleri said. "The last two days was the first time I got back with the guys in practice in terms of contact. It couldn't have gone better in terms of how my body responded. That puts a big smile on my face. As far as when I'll be back? I would say real soon."

Nikolai Kulemin

There have been rumblings Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin (restricted free agent July 1) might go to Russia if the Leafs don't meet his contract demands, but I asked him point-blank Saturday and he said he wants only to play in the NHL next season. Contract talks are set to begin in the near future between the Leafs and Kulemin, who has had an impressive second half.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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