NHL closer to new icing rule

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- NHL general managers moved a step closer to changing the league's icing rule in an effort to make the game safer.

After the second day of their three-day meetings, the GMs on Tuesday said they were united in a rule being called hybrid icing.

NHL rules currently allow players to chase the puck to the end boards, which can create full-speed races in an effort to get to the puck first. Under hybrid icing, the race for the puck would end at the faceoff dots, allowing players to battle for possession more safely at 30 feet away from the boards instead of 3 feet away.

Hybrid icing has been discussed for six years, but this will be the first time the GMs will bring it to the competition committee and seek the Board of Governors approval to put it in place.

"Keeping with the theme of safety, even though we don't have a lot of injuries, when you do have the injuries we've had -- they're fairly traumatic -- so our managers would like to go with hybrid icing," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's vice president of hockey operations.

Defensemen have been vocal this season in their push for hybrid icing as have many club executives and coaches.

"I think we have to refine exactly how it's going to be called and implement it, but I think it's an important change and I've been pushing for it for some time," Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier said. "I think it puts our defensemen at real risk on a play that's not a scoring chance. So I think it's a real positive development."

Interest in bringing back the red line rule that prevented two-line passing was also anticipated to be an issue, but didn't pick up traction. The only determination was that the NHL would like to see the AHL experiment with the red line rule for a year to see how it works.

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero believes the red line rule shouldn't return to the game.

"I like the way it is now," Shero said. "The game is quick, it's fast. Any of the injuries, concussions, aren't necessarily happening because there's no red line. That's not documented.

"To go back to putting the red line in I just see too much of the trapping that used to happen and neutral zone that was really hard to get through."

The GMs also heard from NHL deputy commissioner William Daly, who explained why Alexander Radulov is eligible to return from Russia to play for the Nashville Predators for the rest of the season.

Radulov had one year left on his contract with Nashville when he left to play the past four seasons in Russia for the KHL's Ufa Salavat Yulayev team. During his time in the NHL, Radulov had 44 goals and 51 assists in 145 games.

His KHL season now over, Radulov, 25, has expressed interest in returning to the Predators. Daly cited an NHL rule that says Radulov can play for the Predators without having to clear waivers if the club wants him back.

"He's a player under contract, he has contractual obligations to Nashville and it would be unfair to the club who has the benefit and right to his contractual obligations not to be able to bring him back," Daly said.