NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 23, 2019

by | Aug 23, 2019 | News, NHL | 26 comments

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.

Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov receives a four-year ban by the IIHF after testing positive for cocaine (Photo via NHL Images).

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.


  1. That’s going to be tough on Koivu to regain form from a torn ACL at age 36. Best of luck Mikko.

    On the bright side, its his contract year so he’s got a great chance to show everybody he’s good to go

  2. Smart move for Sens

    No rush to get captain; window for deep playoff run won’t be for a couple of years

    Many young players with emerging talent; lots of time to show the necessary leadership qualities ….. guarantee it will not be Ryan, Zaitsev or Hainsey

    • At some stage a few years from now I can see either Chabot or Tkachuk wearing the C

  3. I just got a notification from SportsNet that Evgeny Kuznetsov has been banned by the IIHF for testing positive for cocaine.
    Perhaps MacLellan is anticipating not having Kuznetsov’s $7.8 mill cap hit (capfriendly) in the future.

    • Kuznetsov will not be suspended nor his contract terminated. The NHL doesn’t consider cocaine a performance-enhancing drug and thus he won’t be suspended. Instead, he goes through the league’s counseling program, which includes treatment if required. He’ll also undergo regular testing for that drug.

      • Is it that drug only? Or all illicit recreational drugs?

      • Thanks, Lyle.
        I just assumed that cocaine would be on the NHL list of banned drugs. I am kinda’ surprised it is not.

      • Lyle that’s unfortunate. This is a league image issue and the NHL should be looking at suspending him for 10 games minimum.
        The NHL doesn’t have anything that covers illegal activities is surprising.
        Guarantee if that was say David Backes the Bruins be doing everything to use that to terminate his contract.

      • They cannot suspend him for a first-time violation. You can read Bill Daly’s response to find out why.


        If they did suspend him for a first-time violation, it would also reflect poorly on the league. Remember, they tried that “zero tolerance” policy back in the 80s. It didn’t work. Indeed, in some instances, it only made matters worse. The league was pilloried for its over-the-top year-long suspension of Grant Fuhr 30 years ago.

      • Well, we know at least that he won’t be playing for Russia in the Olympics … but he could play for them in the NHL’s World Cup! Bizarre.

    • Pretty hard for the NHL not to follow suit – right now the Caps, with no RFAs left to re-sign, are $1,364,294 over the cap. A 4 year suspension here would take him to age 31 with no appreciable competition in that span to keep his “edge” – rendering him virtually useless if/when he does come back.

      A corresponding NHL suspension would suddenly vault the Caps into that grouping of teams with lots of cap space able to take on a decent player from one of the cap-strapped teams in a trade.

      • Oops, thanks Lyle for the clarification which crossed with my comment above.

      • Having players suspended for first time drug offenses seems to me to be a disincentive for them to voluntarily seek treatment.

        It is contrary to what the goal is – or should be – to ensure that a player with a substance abuse problem is helped back to health.

      • Here here lj. @caper this is why it would reflect so poorly on the bruins if your suggested scenario did happen

      • Lj and Lyle that’s a load of crap! One is responsible for his own actions, I’m sure he wasn’t forced to snort cocaine.

        All for giving help, but there need to be consequences for your actions.

      • There is consequences… he is in a monitoring program that can randomly test him and he’ll be required to participate in treatment.

      • Chrism, that must be sarcasm.

      • Not in the least caper. I’m guessing you’ve never been in a testing program before.

      • Chrism, this player wasn’t coming forward he got caught. Not different then the picture of him, where their is a white substance on the table and he said he isn’t responsible for what’s on the table and who doing what but he said he definitely wasn’t.
        If he volunteer and said I’m an addict and I need help, then yes help. But getting caught while using, sorry he not looking for help.

      • Caper… most people with substance use disorder… almost all actually… are motivated by some sort of external motivating factor at the beginning. Family pressure work pressure legal pressure. Most individuals substance abuse is sustainable in their life until it significantly effects those areas. It’s why programs like the nhls are so important. They can be life saving

  4. He probably wasn’t “using” cocaine, per say.
    Just smelling it, I’d imagine.

    • LOL , wonder what the statistics would be on that

    • Smelling it is how you use it.

      • Or smoke or inject it. One of my favorite characters as a kid was an injection cocaine user

  5. Oh boy this place cracks me up

    • r/woosh.
      I love it.