Blackhawks “Dynasty” Forever Tarnished

Blackhawks “Dynasty” Forever Tarnished

On June 10, 2010, one of the longest Stanley Cup droughts in NHL history came to an end. An overtime goal by Patrick Kane against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final gave the Chicago Blackhawks their first championship since 1961.

It was the start of several dominant years for the Blackhawks. Over the following five seasons, the Blackhawks would win two more Stanley Cups. Kane, team captain Jonathan Toews and defenseman Duncan Keith established themselves as respected NHL superstars. Head coach Joel Quenneville burnished his resume as one of the league’s top bench bosses. General manager Stan Bowman was praised for his ability to maintain his championship roster.

Stanley Cup dynasties – teams that win three-or-more consecutive Stanley Cups – are rarities in the NHL’s salary-cap world. As a result, some observers considered the Blackhawks’ three championships in six years the closest thing to a Cup dynasty in today’s game.

Eleven years after that first Cup, that “dynasty” is forever tarnished by a scandal set in motion three weeks before Kane’s winning goal.

A small group of senior team executives, including Bowman and Quenneville, reached the fateful decision to cover up allegations of sexual assault made by winger Kyle Beach against video coach Bradley Aldrich.

They decided not to take any action against Aldrich until after the Stanley Cup Final so as not to risk the matter becoming a distraction for the players. After their celebrations with the Cup in Chicago had quieted down, the club gave Aldrich a choice of stepping down or facing an internal investigation.

That reference helped Aldrich get a job with USA Hockey and an assistant coaching job with a high school in Houghton, Michigan. Three years later, Aldrich was sentenced to nine months in jail on a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge for his alleged involvement with a male student between the age of 16 and 18. The student filed a lawsuit against the Blackhawks earlier this year for providing a positive employment letter to Aldrich even though they knew he was a sexual predator.

Thanks to the courage of Beach and the student known as “John Doe 2” in stepping forward to tell their stories, aided by the dogged investigative journalism of TSN’s Rick Westhead and The Athletic’s Katie Strang, the Blackhawks were forced to conduct an independent investigation.

The resulting report, released to the public last week, was damning.

Bowman stepped down as general manager while another club official was relieved of his duties. Quenneville, who’d moved on to coach the Florida Panthers, resigned from that job following a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

None of the players on the 2010 Blackhawks roster were mentioned in the report. Kane, Toews, Keith (now with the Edmonton Oilers) and others denied knowledge of the allegations. Beach, in his emotional interview with Westhead a day after the report was released, believed everyone in the dressing room knew. His story was supported by the testimony of former teammates Nick Boynton and Brent Sopel when they spoke with investigators this summer.

Only two players (Boynton and Sopel) along with former associate coach John Torchetti and former skills coach Paul Vincent, supported Beach and testified to investigators on his behalf. Nearly everyone else on that 2009-10 roster is facing scrutiny from fans and the media over what they did or didn’t do at the time the allegations were raised.

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was the Blackhawks assistant GM at the time and took part in that fateful meeting before the 2010 Cup Final. Though he was cleared of any wrongdoing in a subsequent meeting with Bettman, he still faces calls for an apology to Beach from fans and pundits and a further explanation of his actions while with the Blackhawks.

Despite their denials, the reputations of the Blackhawks stars have suffered a significant blow. Assuming they had no knowledge of the incident at the time, they’re facing questions over when they did find out, how much they knew and why they didn’t do more to try and help Beach. The tone-deaf defense of Bowman by Kane and Toews following his dismissal was not a good look for either star.

The fallout isn’t just limited to the Blackhawks. NHLPA director Donald Fehr is feeling the heat from the player executive and rank-and-file members for his apparent inaction when Beach and his agent informed the PA of the allegations.

For Blackhawks fans, this is a devastating gut punch. The club they love and support, an Original Six franchise considered the epitome of a successful franchise in the salary-cap era, has been brought low by a handful of men who did nothing to protect a frightened young player from a sexual predator. It could take years for the Blackhawks to rebuild their standing and regain the full trust of their fans and win back those they lost from this sordid scandal

Bowman and Quenneville will probably never work in the NHL again. Kane, Toews, Keith and other players had nothing to do with how their club handled the allegations but they’ll face lingering doubts in the court of public opinion.

All of that pales in comparison to the hell Kyle Beach went through for 11 years. He was ostracized by the Blackhawks, even reportedly mocked by several teammates. He continued his playing career away from the NHL. Somehow, he found the determination to carry on every day despite his terrible burden and the courage to fight back with limited support despite the Blackhawks’ efforts to discredit him.

As more than one observer noted, Beach show more bravery and integrity than those who failed him.

Six men made a fateful decision that did immeasurable harm to Beach and another young man. That decision would eventually damage their own reputations and careers, in some cases beyond repair. It cost them their jobs, tarnished a once-great franchise, cast a dark cloud over the lives and careers of their franchise players, and stained the league’s brand.

All because they put winning a championship over doing the right thing.

That’s the dark legacy of the Blackhawks “dynasty.”










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 28, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 28, 2021

Kyle Beach identified himself as one of the victims in the Blackhawks’ scandal, the ongoing fallout from the investigation, plus game recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

KYLE BEACH STEPS FORWARD AS ACCUSER IN BLACKHAWKS SCANDAL

TSN: Former Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach stepped forward as the player at the center of the investigation into allegations of sexual assault by former video coach Bradley Aldrich.

Kyle Beach (right) speaks with Rick Westhead (TSN.CA).

In an emotional 25-minute interview with Rick Westhead, Beach expressed relief and vindication that “it was no longer my word against everybody else’s,” adding it was “very special and important to me to have that truth come out yesterday”.

Beach recalled what happened to him after the abuse by Aldrich, the Blackhawks’ organization’s efforts to cover up the incident and its subsequent denials. “They said they did an investigation, they said my claims were meritless. To me, I took that as them saying to the world that I was a liar, that I was lying,” said Beach.

He singled out the role of then-head coach Joel Quenneville in the club’s handling of the incident. Quenneville said in a statement this summer that he has no prior knowledge of Beach’s claims at the time until he heard about it through the media.

Multiple players with the Blackhawks at that time also subsequently made the same claim. “I believe everyone in the locker room knew about it,” said Beach.

He also voiced his disappointment over the NHLPA’s lack of action when he informed them of the details. He believed two different people spoke with PA director Donald Fehr. “And for him to turn his back on the players when his one job is to protect the players at all cost, I don’t know how that can be your leader,” he said.

Beach said he stepped forward in part because, while the report referred to him as “John Doe”, the details made it possible to figure out his identity. He indicated it was also part of his recovery as a survivor of sexual assault. He also wants to bring about change within the NHL to assure this never happens again.

The NHL has let me down and they’ve let other down too. And they continue to try to protect their name,” said Beach. “I hope through and through that (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman takes this seriously and that he does his due diligence.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve noted what I felt were key highlights from Beach’s interview. I encourage everyone to follow the above link for the video interview and the full transcript.

Beach was very brave to come forward with his story. It was heartbreaking watching him recount what happened, at one point breaking down in tears and expressing sorrow for not doing more to protect Aldrich’s subsequent victim. He did nothing wrong and yet he still felt remorse that he didn’t do more.

Kyle Beach was failed by the Blackhawks at every level. Only a handful of people, including former teammates Nick Boynton and Brent Sopel, former associate coach John Torchetti and former skills coach Paul Vincent, stood by him. He endured over 11 years of trauma before finally receiving a measure of justice. Everyone involved in make his life hell for over a decade bear full responsibility for what they didn’t do to help him and for what they did to cover it up.

The release of the investigation’s findings and Beach’s interview are not the end of this story. The repercussions are ongoing and will be long-lasting, leading hopefully to positive change that ensures no player ever faces what Beach did.

TSN: The Blackhawks released a statement following Beach’s interview expressing “deepest apologies” for what he went through and the organization’s failure to properly respond when he brought the matter to light. The statement laid the blame on former team executives.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apologies and buck-passing don’t cut it. Try again.

NHLPA director Donald Fehr also issued an apology to Beach, acknowledging his courage in telling his story and admitting the system (of which the PA is a part) failed him. Fehr indicated the person Beach spoke with at the NHLPA was one of the program doctors in the player assistance program. While confidential between players and doctors, Fehr said the “grave nature of this incident should have resulted in further action on our part.” He also said the PA is committed to making changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Action speaks louder than words, Mr. Fehr.

Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews told reporters last night they wished they knew more about what happened to Beach so they could’ve done more to help him. They said they didn’t he was the John Doe in the investigation until he came forward yesterday. Kane commended Beach for his courage in telling his story while Toews said he didn’t know about the allegations until training camp in 2010-11.

Both players also commented on Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman stepping down and senior VP of hockey operations Al MacIsaac being relieved of his duties. Kane considered it “necessary” and “the right moves” but also called Bowman “a great man who did a lot of things for me personally”. Toews felt they weren’t directly responsible for what happened and still had a lot of respect for them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus said in response to those remarks, I get why Kane and Toews are remaining loyal to those who played a big role in their lives and careers but heaping praise on those two isn’t a great look.

Former Blackhawks head coach and current Florida Panthers bench boss Joel Quenneville stood by his statement to investigators that he first learned of the allegations through the media this summer. He’s slated to meet with commissioner Bettman in New York today. Quenneville was behind the bench for the Panthers’ 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins last night and didn’t speak to the media following the game.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre reports Jets ownership is supporting general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who will be meeting with Bettman in New York on Monday. Cheveldayoff was the Blackhawks assistant general manager in 2010 and was named in the report as part of the group of Blackhawks executives who met to discuss the allegations in May 2010.

In his statement, Cheveldayoff said he was first made aware of the allegations during that meeting. He believed a decision was reached by his superiors to have the hockey operations people deal with the on-ice production while they would handle the Aldrich allegations.

McIntyre reports Jets chairman and co-owner Mark Chipman will travel to New York with Cheveldayoff on Monday. Short of new evidence emerging or Bettman lowering the boom, McIntyre expected Cheveldayoff will keep his job.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We don’t know what Bettman has in store for Quenneville and Cheveldayoff. Many on social media are calling for their firings or at least suspension.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers extended their record to 7-0-0 by defeating the Boston Bruins 4-1. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves for the win while Gustav Forsling collected three assists.

Cam Atkinson scored two goals and Carter Hart kicked out 34 shots as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-3, snapping the latter’s five-game season-opening win streak. Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist for the Oilers.

Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin tallied in overtime as his club overcame a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied for the Capitals.

The Toronto Maple Leafs also rallied from 2-0 to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. William Nylander scored in overtime for the Leafs. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews came out of COVID-19 protocol yesterday and played in this game.

An overtime goal by Evgenii Dadonov lifted the Vega Golden Knights to a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Jonathan Marchessault scored late in the third for Vegas to send the game into the extra frame.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov is expected to miss the next eight-to-10 weeks following surgery for a lower-body injury.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings defenseman Drew Doughty will miss the next two months with a bruised knee while Sean Walker suffered season-ending ligament tears in his right knee that will require surgery.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets captain Blake Wheeler has returned to practice after 10 days in isolation as per NHL COVID protocols.

NHL.COM: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban received a $5,000.00 fine by the department of player safety for a dangerous trip against Calgary Flames winger Milan Lucic on Tuesday.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin is expected to be named GM of the USA Men’s Olympic Hockey Team at the 2022 Beijing Games.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 27, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 27, 2021

Stan Bowman steps aside as Blackhawks general manager as the Blackhawks make front office changes in the wake of an investigation into sexual assault allegations involving their former video coach. Details plus recaps of Tuesday’s game and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Chicago Blackhawks team president and general manager Stan Bowman stepped aside following the release of details of an independent investigation into sexual assault allegations made against former video coach Bradley Aldrich by a former player over a decade ago. Senior VP of hockey operations Al MacIsaac was also relieved of his duties. The news was announced in a virtual press briefing yesterday that included Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz, CEO Danny Wirtz and Jenner & Block lead investigator Reid Schar.

Former Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman (NHL.com).

In addition, the NHL has fined the Blackhawks $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response” in its handling of this matter. Aldrich left the Blackhawks following the 2009-10 season.

The investigation found Bowman and MacIsaac met with then-president and CEO John McDonough, executive VP Jay Blunk, assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, head coach Joel Quenneville and mental skills coach James Gary after the Blackhawks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in May 2010 to discuss the allegations. However, nothing was done until three weeks later after the Blackhawks won the Cup.

TSN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman intends to meet personally with Cheveldayoff and Quenneville in the near future. Cheveldayoff is now the GM of the Winnipeg Jets and Quenneville is the head coach of the Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The full 107-page report, based on interviews with 139 people, has been released to the public (warning: contains graphic and disturbing details). It reveals the Blackhawks organization ultimately put winning a championship over pursuing prompt action against a sexual predator in their midst.

When they finally acted, they didn’t go to the police. Instead, Aldrich was given the choice of stepping down or being subjected to an internal investigation. He got severance pay, a playoff bonus, a day with the Cup and a complimentary reference letter from Quenneville. Nearly four years later, Aldrich was sentenced to nine months in jail and five years probation on criminal sexual conduct charges stemming from his alleged involvement with a high school player.

At every level, the Blackhawks failed to protect “John Doe”, who was also reportedly later ostracized and mocked by several teammates following his ordeal. They chose to cover it up for years, doing immeasurable harm to Aldrich’s victims and tarnishing a once-proud organization. The only positive to come out of this is “John Doe” finally received some measure of justice for his ordeal.

This story never would’ve seen the light of day without the determined reporting by TSN’s Rick Westhead and The Athletic’s Katie Strang. Their reports earlier this year led to the long-overdue investigation into the allegations.

The fallout from this story is ongoing and the aftermath will be felt by the Blackhawks, and the NHL, for a long time. We can only hope there will be lessons learned by the league to ensure victims of sexual assault at any level within its ranks never have to face what “John Doe” endured for the past decade.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken won its first home game in franchise history by downing the Montreal Canadiens 5-1. Brandon Tanev scored twice and Yanni Gourde collected a goal and an assist. The hapless Habs have lost five of their first six games this season. Earlier in the day, Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin said sidelined teammate Shea Weber is essentially retired though he hasn’t officially done so.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drouin said out loud what everyone knows. Injuries have ended Weber’s career but he’s still under contract through 2025-26. He’ll remain on long-term injury reserve. If he officially retires, the Canadiens would only face a salary-cap recapture penalty of $200K per season until his contract expires. His former club, the Nashville Predators, would get hit with $6.1 million annually as they were the ones who matched his contract offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Nikolaj Ehlers scored the tying and winning goals 19 seconds apart in the third period to give the Winnipeg Jets a 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Andrew Copp also had a goal and two assists for the Jets. Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano had a goal and an assist for the Ducks.

The Calgary Flames picked up their fourth straight win by dropping the New Jersey Devils 5-3. Andrew Mangiapane scored two goals for the Flames. Pavel Zacha replied with two for the Devils.

A 28-save performance by Andrei Vasilevskiy gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the Lightning’s first regulation win of the season. Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and Ryan McDonagh each had a goal and an assist.

The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their second win of the season by beating the Colorado Avalanche 3-1. Robin Lehner made 26 saves while Chandler Stephenson had a goal and an assist. Both clubs have 2-4-0 records.

Cam Talbot made 22 saves as the Minnesota Wild held off the Vancouver Canucks 3-2. Matt Dumba scored the eventual game-winner as the Wild have won five straight games. The Canucks announced defenseman Travis Hamonic has traveled to Vancouver and will join their AHL affiliate in Abbotsford. He did not report to the club in September and was placed on leave while dealing with a personal matter.

Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi had two assists and goaltender Juuse Saros kicked out 28 shots in a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund tallied for the Predators.

IN OTHER NEWS…

STLTODAY.COM: Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly was placed on the non-roster COVID-19 protocol list yesterday, joining winger Brandon Saad. They will be sidelined at least 10 days.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and center Henrik Borgstrom were placed on the club’s COVID protocol list.

ABC 6: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Dean Kukan will be sidelined eight weeks after fracturing his wrist in Monday’s game against the Dallas Stars.

AZCENTRAL.COM: Coyotes goaltender Carter Hutton is expected to miss two to four weeks with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Conor Timmins is out eight-to-12 weeks (lower body) while winger Ryan Dzingel has suffered an upper-body injury.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders signed forward Ross Johnston to a four-year contract extension. He’ll earn $1.1 million annually.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 25, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – October 25, 2021

Could the Blackhawks shop Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at the trade deadline? Could the Sharks reach a settlement to terminate Evander Kane’s contract? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks wonders when the talk begins about Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews becoming available at the March 21 trade deadline. The duo has two years remaining on their contracts with matching $10.5 million cap hits and full no-movement clauses.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks’ lousy start to this season is behind Brooks’ speculation. Nevertheless, it seems premature for that kind of talk. Unless Kane and Toews want out, and there’s no indication of that, they’re not going anywhere.

Kane and Toews are signed through 2022-23. Assuming one or both were to hit the trade block, their contracts make them difficult to move this season with only seven teams carrying at least $10 million in cap space this season. Their movement clauses would significantly limit the number of potential destinations. The best time to move them would be next summer when there will be more teams with plentiful cap space willing to make big moves.

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sheng Peng had mused about the possibility of the San Jose Sharks reaching a settlement with Evander Kane to terminate the troubled winger’s contract. He pointed to the Los Angeles Kings doing the same thing with Mike Richards in 2015 where they paid 60 percent of the remaining value of Richards’ contract over 17 years, cap hit included.

However, Peng recently cited “a highly placed NHL source” saying such a settlement for the Sharks and Kane is out of the question for now. The source said the Sharks case for terminating the winger’s contract wouldn’t be as strong as the Kings’ case was with Richards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some readers have also wondered why Kane’s use of a fake COVID vaccination card doesn’t constitute a breach of contract. Writing for Forbes.com, sports legal analyst Eric Macramalla explained it’s not a material breach because Kane can still perform the services of his contract, which is playing hockey. The Sharks also can’t use the morals clause in his contract as grounds for termination because he’s already been punished by the league for using that fake COVID card.

Given Kane’s limited trade value, Macramalla believes the Sharks will need to buy out Kane if they hope to move on from him.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 30, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 30, 2021

Check out the latest on Jonathan Toews, Mark Giordano, Jack Campbell and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Jonathan Toews looked like his old self in his first NHL game since being sidelined with chronic immune response syndrome 407 days ago. Despite a 4-3 preseason shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks captain logged 22:48 of ice time, collected an assist, three shots on goal, two takeaways and won 15 of 21 faceoffs.

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A promising start for Toews. The Blackhawks need their captain healthy if they hope to contend for a playoff spot this season.

CALGARY SUN: Former Flames captain Mark Giordano returned to Calgary for his first game since being selected by the Seattle Kraken in July’s expansion draft. He received a warm welcome from Flames fans, scoring a goal in a 4-3 preseason shootout win by the Kraken.

THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell believes there can be no excuses for the club this season. He and his teammates intend to use last spring’s disappointing postseason as motivation to win in the 2022 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs will face tremendous pressure this season following three straight first-round playoff exits.. Their last Stanley Cup title was in 1967 and they haven’t won a postseason series since 2004. Some teams can use previous playoff disappointment to grow and change into a championship team. Whether the Leafs can channel that this season remains to be seen.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Promising prospect William Eklund has a legitimate shot at cracking the San Jose Sharks roster this season. The seventh overall pick in the 2021 NHL draft, Eklund leads the Sharks with three points in two preseason games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s still very early in preseason play and Eklund hasn’t yet tasted regular-season NHL action. Nevertheless, the 18-year-old winger could have an opportunity to at least start the season with the Sharks.

TSN: Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson reportedly offered a contract extension to general manager Marc Bergevin in July, but they haven’t reached an agreement yet. Both sides continue to talk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes the Canadiens don’t want uncertainty over Bergevin’s contract status hanging over the club this season. The Canadiens GM garnered leverage with his club’s surprising march to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, but that could evaporate if they struggle this season.

THE DENVER POST: Former NHL forward and current Colorado Avalanche color analyst Peter McNab has been diagnosed with cancer and is receiving treatment. The 69-year-old McNab will continue his role with Altitude Sports.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to McNab for a speedy and full recovery.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers center Tanner Laczynski will require surgery on his left hip and could be sidelined for the season.

 

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 24, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 24, 2021

The Sabres strip Jack Eichel of his captaincy, plus several stars are already sidelined or returning from injuries as training camps open. Check out the details in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams confirmed yesterday the club had stripped Jack Eichel of the captaincy. The 24-year-old center also failed his team physical and will be placed on injured reserve.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Eichel and Sabres’ management remain in a standoff over which medical procedure he should receive to repair a herniated disc in his neck. He favors disc replacement surgery while the team doctors prefer fusion surgery. Adams also indicated the team is still open to trading Eichel at the right price.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt any NHL fan or pundit is surprised by this news. It’s just another chapter in an impasse with no end in sight. There could be teams willing to let Eichel undergo disc replacement but they’re unwilling to pay the Sabres’ high asking price to acquire him.

Don’t expect to see Eichel on the ice this season unless one side blinks. I also don’t anticipate seeing him traded this season unless the Sabres drop their price. Even then, Eichel’s $10 million annual average value over the next five seasons is difficult for most teams to absorb even when he’s healthy.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin is expected to miss at least the first two months of this season recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee. The Penguins also have one unidentified player not yet fully vaccinated though he’s expected to be within the next few weeks.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said he’s been dealing with a nagging injury since prior to the 2020 NHL playoffs but downplayed the severity. He and GM Stan Bowman didn’t elaborate but said it was a common ailment among hockey players.

Meanwhile, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was back with his teammates in his first formal practice since missing all of last season with Chronic Immune Response Syndrome. He’s hoping to be ready to play when the season opens next month.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and winger Mike Hoffman are likely to miss training camp and the start of the season. Price is recovering from offseason knee surgery while Hoffman has been sidetracked by a lower-body injury.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is listed as week-to-week due to ongoing rehabilitation on his hip. Meanwhile, teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov said he’s feeling good mentally and physically and ready to put a difficult 2020-21 season behind him.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck confirmed he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Aug. 20. He was unvaccinated at the time and took about 10 days to recover. He’s since been vaccinated but felt rushed into doing so in order to be ready for training camp so soon after recovering from the coronavirus.

I’m not anti-vax by any means,” he said. “But I’d like to have that decision for myself. It felt very forced on me.” He added the post-vaccination symptoms made him feel as though he had COVID again.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hellebuyck’s situation was unique and probably should’ve allowed him more leeway to become vaccinated so soon after recovering from COVID-19. NHL protocols would allow him to join his teammates under certain restrictions until he received his shots.

The league isn’t forcing its players to be inoculated. However, they face travel restrictions, additional testing, forfeiture of portions of their salaries if they miss playing time and social interaction limitations as a result.

Some might feel the NHL’s protocols are too restrictive. However, the league and the NHLPA don’t want a repeat of 2020-21 when multiple game postponements due to outbreaks of COVID-19 among several teams wreaked havoc on an already compressed schedule.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Center Tyler Seguin, winger Alexander Radulov and goaltender Ben Bishop were on the ice for the Stars’ opening day of training camp. Seguin missed all but three games last season to hip and knee surgeries. Radulov was sidelined most of last season by a core muscle injury requiring offseason surgery. Bishop, meanwhile, is hopeful of playing after missing all of last season to knee surgery.

CALGARY SUN: Flames center Sean Monahan revealed a hip injury bothered him for most of last season. He underwent offseason surgery and was on the ice for the club’s opening day of training camp.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche forward Stefan Matteau and defenseman Roland McKeown had both tested positive for COVID-19 but are nearing the end of their recovery. Meanwhile, head coach Jared Bednar said defenseman Cale Makar underwent an upper-body procedure recently but isn’t expected to miss any practice or preseason time.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins center Charlie Coyle began training camp yesterday wearing a non-contact red jersey. He’s coming off a pair of knee surgeries but is expected to be ready for the start of the season.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken center Yanni Gourde took part in drills yesterday wearing a non-contact jersey. GM Ron Francis indicates Gourde could return to action sooner than expected from offseason shoulder surgery. He was originally expected to be sidelined until December.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets goaltending coach Manny Legace revealed he was recently hospitalized fighting for his life with a severe case of COVID-19. He spent a week in intensive care before being released. He and his wife must now wait eight weeks before getting vaccinated as per CDC guidelines, something they had put off based on advice from doctors related to medical conditions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Legace and his wife for a speedy and complete recovery.

THE PROVINCE: An internal document shared with NHL teams earlier this week reveals the league believes 30 of its 32 teams could start the season with full capacity at their arenas. The exceptions are the Vancouver Canucks (50 percent) and the Montreal Canadiens (33 percent). The memo also revealed the various anticipated vaccine guidelines for all the franchises.