NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 23, 2019
Evgeny Kuznetsov receives a four-year ban from the IIHF after testing positive for cocaine. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: The International Ice Hockey Federation suspended Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov from international competition for four years after he tested positive for cocaine at the 2019 World Championships.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly released a statement noting cocaine “is not considered a performance-enhancing drug and is therefore not a Prohibited Substance under the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. Instead, it is considered a drug of abuse that is tested for and for which intervention, evaluation, and mandatory treatment can occur in appropriate cases.”
Daly indicated Kuznetsov “has voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling program provided for in the NHL and NHLPA collective bargaining agreement and has agreed to a regular testing protocol relating to his involvement with that program.” He’s also agreed to an in-person meeting with commissioner Gary Bettman before training camp opens.
The Capitals and Kuznetsov also released statements. He took responsibility for his actions, expressed remorse for his actions, and accepted the IIHF’s ban. The club approves of Kuznetsov seeking treatment, indicating they will continue to support him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The ban means Kuznetsov cannot participate in IIHF-sanctioned tournaments. That includes the 2022 Beijing Olympics if the NHL agrees to participate. It remains to be seen if he’ll receive any disciplinary action from the NHL. Here’s hoping Kuznetsov gets the proper treatment and can put this incident behind him.
TSN: Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he intends to open contract extension talks with goaltender Braden Holtby and center Nicklas Backstrom next month. Both are slated to become unrestricted free agents next July. The Capitals carry around $19 million in salary-cap space for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Re-signing both players could prove costly. Holtby carries an annual average value of $6.1 million on his current contract while Backstrom’s is $6.7 million.
Unless one or both accept hometown discounts or the Capitals shed some salary, McLellan could sign only one of them. Capitals fans I’ve spoken with appear resigned to Holtby hitting the market next summer.
TWINCITIES.COM: Six months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu is back on skates. The 36-year-old center expects to be ready when training camp opens on Sept. 12.
THE ATHLETIC‘s Aaron Portzline tweets there’s no indication the Columbus Blue Jackets and defenseman Zach Werenski are close to a new contract, but also no indication talks have hit a snag. “No urgency to get a deal done, but that could change when the calendar flips to September. CBJ and Werenski’s agent, Pat Brisson, expected to talk again soon.”
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins GM Don Sweeney admitted contract talks with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo aren’t moving as fast as everyone would like. Nevertheless, he anticipates the two restricted free agent defensemen will be part of the Bruins for a long time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t anticipate Werenski, McAvoy, Carlo or any of the other remaining restricted free agents to be signed until next month. We could see a flurry of signings in the days leading up to the start of training camp in mid-September.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames invited former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald to training camp on a tryout basis.
THE SCORE: Ottawa Senators coach D.J. Smith said the club won’t name a captain for the upcoming season. “The captain will emerge in time. I think the biggest thing is that we will allow the older guys to mentor these younger guys and blunt the blow until we turn the corner here,” said Smith.