NHLNotebook: Arizona on the move, Dr. Omalu calls the NHL's bluff, Phaneuf and the Expansion Draft

Zach Laing
February 10 2017 07:00AM

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The NHLN Notebook is a semi-regular feature of interesting hockey content from the past few days that doesn't quite deserve its own article. 

In today's notebook, we look at Arizona possibly being on the move (again), Gary Bettman getting called out by Dr. Bennet Omalu who is the doctor that discovered CTE, and Bryan Bickell getting set to return to the NHL. Also, Dion Phaneuf may be asked to waive his no move clause to help Ottawa prospect younger defencemen come expansion draft time, and Dallas mulls over whether or not to sell at the deadline. 

Could Arizona be on the move?

On Tuesday, Darrell Jackson with the Glendale released an article stating that "according to officials in Seattle and Portland, members of the Arizona Coyotes have toured arenas in both locations in the past three months. The destinations appear to have been the KeyArena in Seattle and the Moda Center in Portland, Ore."

It has been well known that the Coyotes have not been happy with their arena situation. Up until late last week, the team had the framework of a plan to move to Tempe, however, Arizona State pulled out of a potential deal.

As expected, the Coyotes denied that they looked around the area.

The Pacific Northwest is a location that the league has wanted to expand to for some time. With a estimated population of under four million in the Seattle Metropolian area, it is clear that the area could support and NHL team. Tacoma is only a 45 minute drive south of Seattle, while Everett is only a 45 minute drive north of Seattle.

As Jackson talked about in his article, the KeyArena in Seattle has been mostly empty since the Seattle Supersonics left in 2007, while the Moda Arena in Portland is currently home to the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA. 

Dr. Omalu calls out the NHL

There has been no so surprise that Gary Bettman has tried to gloss over things for sometime. Inherently, hockey is a violent sport. For over a hundred years, players have taken hits, delivered hits and players have certainly had careers shortened because of concussions. 

Dr. Bennet Omalu made a medical breakthrough in 2002 when he performed an autopsy on recently deceased former NFL player Mike Webster and diagnosed him with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 

On Wednesday, Dr. Omalu wrote a letter to a lawyer representing former NHL players suing the league for it's handling of concussions and brain trauma. The letter was filed in U.S. district court where the lawsuit is being argued in Minneapolis. 

The above linked tweets from Allan Walsh highlight some of what Dr. Omalu had to say. You can read the full letter here

Bickell nearing return at end of February

In Jan. 26's, NHLN Notebook, I wrote about how Bryan Bickell was nearing a return to the NHL. 

Now, Bickell said to NHL.com earlier in the week how he is targeting the Hurricanes five-game homestand that begins on Feb. 17 for his return date. 

"I feel good," Bickell said after a conditioning skate Tuesday. "I obviously don't feel good right now, I just got skated pretty hard, but it's going to help me down the long run. I think we're getting there and getting close to getting back in the rotation. We're shooting for probably after the bye week and then kind of day by day from there."

The Hurricanes open their homestand with a Feb. 17 matchup against the Colorado Avalanche, then play the Maple Leafs on Feb. 19, the Penguins on Fe. 21, the Senators on Feb. 24 and the Flames on Feb. 26.

The one-year anniversary of the Dion Phaneuf trade, and his future in Ottawa

One year ago, the Leafs sent Dion Phaneuf and his massive contract to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a whole bunch of other bad, short-term contracts. As the quote above suggests, Phaneuf was a very popular player on the Leafs, and his teammates were sad to see him go. That said, there's no way you can argue this deal was anything but good for Toronto, who opened up quite a bit of cap flexibility with the move.

But anyways, on to the actual point. Buried deep, deep, deeeeeeeeep in the depths of a column by Don Brennan in the Ottawa Sun is the idea that the Sens may ask Phaneuf to waive his no movement clause so that he can be exposed in the expansion draft. That way, the team can protect Erik Karlsson (obviously), Marc Methot, and Cocdy Ceci, the article says. 

The sentiment seems to be that the Sens believe the Golden Knights won't touch Phaneuf's contract with a ten-foot pole, but still, it's difficult to say if that's the case. Would the Golden Knights want a veteran defenceman to anchor their blue line? One who's been a captain at the NHL level in a difficult market? Also, someone who carries a cap hit that'll help them reach the cap floor? Who knows! But Patrick O'Sullivan bluntly has some thoughts on what Dion may say to the Sens if they do ask him to sacrifice himself as tribute...

Dallas Stars half in, half out on deadline plan

According to Pierre LeBrun, the Dallas Stars, who, I should note, have struggled mightily with poor goaltending, have had preliminary discussions about Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury. 

We all know Fleury's days in Pittsburgh are soon to be over, as the team will leave him exposed in the expansion draft in favour of the younger and better Matt Murray, who was signed to a three-year extension earlier this season. So the Pens will be trying to get something of value for Fleury before they run the chance of losing him for nothing, and the Stars make some sense, but Pittsburgh will have take on either Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi's contract to balance it out.

On the flip side, LeBrun also reported that the Stars are unsure whether they'll be buyer or sellers at the deadline and that decision will be made based on how they perform over the next couple of weeks. Right now, they're seven points out of a playoff spot, which certainly isn't an insurmountable mountain to climb, but they could be best served selling some assets like Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Jiri Hudler, and Patrick Eaves. They really do make an excellent seller candidate. 

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Zach is the Nation Network's News Director. .
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#1 Chris the Curmudgeon
February 10 2017, 08:06AM
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The NFL, ie: the most powerful sporting organization this side of FIFA, tried to fight their former players over concussions and lost handily. Does Gary Bettman actually think the NHL can win that battle where the NFL, and its legions of lawyers and its massive financial resources, could not? You're better off looking for a settlement now, Gary.

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#2 Randaman
February 10 2017, 08:14AM
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Bettman is a fool and I can't believe the owners are that stupid as a group to follow him like a bunch of sheep.

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#3 Jay (not J)
February 10 2017, 08:37AM
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Chris the Curmudgeon wrote:

The NFL, ie: the most powerful sporting organization this side of FIFA, tried to fight their former players over concussions and lost handily. Does Gary Bettman actually think the NHL can win that battle where the NFL, and its legions of lawyers and its massive financial resources, could not? You're better off looking for a settlement now, Gary.

Haven't we learned anything about how Bettman negotiates during the last couple of lockouts? I think it's pretty safe to say that he won't settle now. NFL's Goodall is a wimp and he demonstrated it when his first labour dispute threatened an opening day. Bettman, empowered by boos and hatred will fight harder than the NFL ever did, and it would be bold to bet against him.

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#4 FISTO Siltanen
February 10 2017, 08:49AM
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Chris the Curmudgeon wrote:

The NFL, ie: the most powerful sporting organization this side of FIFA, tried to fight their former players over concussions and lost handily. Does Gary Bettman actually think the NHL can win that battle where the NFL, and its legions of lawyers and its massive financial resources, could not? You're better off looking for a settlement now, Gary.

The lawsuit could be asking for an apology over coffee and Bettman will see this until the owners are paying a multi-billion dollar settlement.

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#5 Chris the Curmudgeon
February 10 2017, 09:05AM
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@Jay (not J)

Goodell may have appeared to be a wimp on the surface, but it looked more like preemptive damage control to me, from a guy whose league is in the black before the first fan walks through a turnstile on opening day. The NHL has started to do better financially lately but certainly doesn't have the luxury of harming itself long term to fight an unwinnable fight (and let's be very clear, with the precedent set by the NFL here, the fight is unwinnable). Bettman is stubborn, sure, but sometimes you need to read the writing on the wall.

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#6 Will
February 10 2017, 09:32AM
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Chris the Curmudgeon wrote:

The NFL, ie: the most powerful sporting organization this side of FIFA, tried to fight their former players over concussions and lost handily. Does Gary Bettman actually think the NHL can win that battle where the NFL, and its legions of lawyers and its massive financial resources, could not? You're better off looking for a settlement now, Gary.

Bettamn will obviously fight it, he's a lawyer. It doesn't matter if they lose, it matters they don't lose as much. That's what corporate lawyers do. It's bettman's responsibility to the owners to save them as much money as he can on this, and that comes by fighting it and hoping to settle out of court.

I would imagine the case is one of negligence and due diligence.

I would also say there's a massive difference in contracts. So while in the NFL they get a concussion and their career and lives are over, int he NHL at least their contract continues on until its end. That means they can argue that restitution was paid as a result of the player still making his contractually guaranteed salary, which should have set him up well for the future.

I also think there's an argument to be made on the negligence. Did the NFL doctors know about this? They see it every single play. And while fights and checks and concussions in the nhl happen, they do not start every down by crashing heads together. The volume of hits to the head isn't even close. So I can't imagine the sports medicine known to the NHL was as great as it was for the NFL. Thus the negligence is lessened.

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#7 Jay (not J)
February 10 2017, 09:46AM
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Chris the Curmudgeon wrote:

Goodell may have appeared to be a wimp on the surface, but it looked more like preemptive damage control to me, from a guy whose league is in the black before the first fan walks through a turnstile on opening day. The NHL has started to do better financially lately but certainly doesn't have the luxury of harming itself long term to fight an unwinnable fight (and let's be very clear, with the precedent set by the NFL here, the fight is unwinnable). Bettman is stubborn, sure, but sometimes you need to read the writing on the wall.

Maybe if the Coyotes ever actually move, I'll believe that the doctors and lawyers have a chance.

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#8 Chris the Curmudgeon
February 10 2017, 09:53AM
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@Will

He'll fight it until he sees that it is no longer advantageous to do so. That point should come soon.

One can compare the two sports as long as they like, but the NHL has still been slow to implement changes as evidence has come to light. And I doubt you'd find many impartial judges who would tell you that banging helmets is that much worse than bare knuckle fighting. It's not an accident that "goons" have higher mortality post-career than other players, and the deaths of Boogaard, Rypien and Belak should have been a revelatory moment just as the CTE diagnosis was in Webster for the NFL (Boogaard's brain was found to have the same types of plaques as Webster's). So I don't think the "how could we have known?" bit is going to work out. The "contract" argument isn't going to hold water either, as there is no amount of compensation that can offset the effects of damage to one's brain, which, unlike damage to one's body, can't really be written off to hazards the players should reasonably expect.

I think it's pretty clear that this situation is going down the same path as the NFL's was, and Bettman would be wise to get ahead of it, whereas right now he seems to be behind.

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#9 Chris the Curmudgeon
February 10 2017, 09:57AM
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@Jay (not J)

Not a fair comparison. That's a fight over contracts, financial agreements, politics, etc, meaning that there's a pie and they're wrangling over who should get a piece and how big. This is a fight over mental health issues caused by playing the sport. This is thus a fight over whether there should even be a pie to divide up to begin with. Considering the precedent set by the NFL, the answer is going to be a resounding yes, don't kid yourself.

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#10 Jabs
February 10 2017, 10:15AM
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I love that the NHL has a team in Arizona but there has been nothing but drama coming out of the desert since the Winnipeg Jets moved there in the '90's.

Maybe enough is enough, move to Seattle and get it over with.

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#11 Jay (not J)
February 10 2017, 11:09AM
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Chris the Curmudgeon wrote:

Not a fair comparison. That's a fight over contracts, financial agreements, politics, etc, meaning that there's a pie and they're wrangling over who should get a piece and how big. This is a fight over mental health issues caused by playing the sport. This is thus a fight over whether there should even be a pie to divide up to begin with. Considering the precedent set by the NFL, the answer is going to be a resounding yes, don't kid yourself.

NFL is a completely different game and lawyers and judges will determine to what extent their 'precedent' is relevant to the NHL. I don't see how anyone who has followed hockey for the last 25 years would dismiss Bettman before he's even getting started. According to Richard Rodier, the guy has clawed and fanged Donald Fehr. Baseball couldn't do that. We will see how this plays out, but calling it now is very premature.

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#12 Natejax97
February 10 2017, 11:11AM
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What exactly is Patrick O'Sullivan's problem.

Thinks he can talk for everyone. He is so full of hate for everything.

What a loser.

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#13 OilCan2
February 10 2017, 11:40AM
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The NHL has no intention of protecting players and turning the game towards skill and speed.

The whistles went right into the pocket in the third period of the Montreal game. The Habs were outplayed all day long and should have been called for even more penalties especially on A Shaw (goon). Parity & cheap beer is required by the NHL to sell a poor product in places like Arizona and Florida.

Denial of the CTE issue is just plain stupid. The NHL wants a macho blood sport mentality at any cost.

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#14 Chris the Curmudgeon
February 10 2017, 12:50PM
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@Jay (not J)

I am saying that Bettman may be stubborn, but he's out of his element. This isn't a dick measuring contest. He's fighting against doctors now, not lawyers. He might be able to win any argument about how laws and agreements should be parsed, but that is VERY different from being able to win an argument against doctors and medical scientists on their turf. You're betting on Bettman's side based on his bulldog mentality. I'm saying that mentality means very little when the other side of the court is filled with expertise that is usually very hard to discredit, which the expert testimony of neurosurgeons tends to be.

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#15 Jay (not J)
February 10 2017, 02:20PM
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Chris the Curmudgeon wrote:

I am saying that Bettman may be stubborn, but he's out of his element. This isn't a dick measuring contest. He's fighting against doctors now, not lawyers. He might be able to win any argument about how laws and agreements should be parsed, but that is VERY different from being able to win an argument against doctors and medical scientists on their turf. You're betting on Bettman's side based on his bulldog mentality. I'm saying that mentality means very little when the other side of the court is filled with expertise that is usually very hard to discredit, which the expert testimony of neurosurgeons tends to be.

Well I'm not getting into a dick measuring contest with your crystal ball. It's just been a very long time since I have believed in something just because someone else calls it a sure thing. Bettman's record speaks for itself and if you believe in the face of that that his losing is a foregone conclusion then hey, feel comforted and secure in your predictions. I will believe it when I see it.

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#16 FISTO Siltanen
February 10 2017, 04:55PM
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Natejax97 wrote:

What exactly is Patrick O'Sullivan's problem.

Thinks he can talk for everyone. He is so full of hate for everything.

What a loser.

Maybe it bothers him that no one has asked him to waive his NMC.

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#17 kormega
February 11 2017, 04:36AM
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Arizona team was a joke from the start. Oranges don't grow up north and there is no ice in the desert.

Bring Hartford Whalers back! Hope that fcukin tolerance won't press to change their name.

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#18 Oilerchild77
February 11 2017, 09:04AM
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Randaman wrote:

Bettman is a fool and I can't believe the owners are that stupid as a group to follow him like a bunch of sheep.

Well, they've done it every year so far. Why would this be any different?

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