NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denies reports of imminent league expansion, plus updates on Joe Thornton, Kimmo Timonen, Nathan MacKinnon, Daniel Alfredsson and more.
TSN.CA: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denies reports the league will expand or that any franchises could be relocating. Bettman also said a new director of player safety will be named before the start of the season, and he’s been in talks with the NHLPA regarding a future World Cup of Hockey tournament.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league isn’t in any hurry to expand, but I believe it will happen over the next ten years. A World Cup of Hockey tournament is far more likely in the near future, especially if the NHL doesn’t participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
SPORTSNET.CA: Stephen Burtch cites advanced stats to make the case Joe Thornton wasn’t given a chance to succeed. He claims bad luck, not Thornton’s performance, was behind the Sharks stunning first-round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the 2014 playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burtch makes a compelling case, but that won’t change the perception held by many fans and pundits that Thornton chokes in postseason play.
PHILLY.COM: Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who will miss at least part of this season to blood clots, is making progress in his recovery.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche sophomore forward Nathan MacKinnon is bigger, stronger and more explosive.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That bodes well for MacKinnon, the 2014 NHL rookie of the year, to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.
MLIVE.COM: Daniel Alfredsson needs another week or two to test his back before reaching a decision on returning with the Red Wings. Coach Mike Babcock, meanwhile, will talk contract extension this month with the Wings.
POST-GAZETTE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis (knee surgery) is awaiting medical clearance to return to action.
MIAMI HERALD: The Florida Panthers have signed 2014 first-overall pick Aaron Ekblad to a three-year entry-level deal.
NBC SPORTS: The Carolina Hurricanes have signed Joe Nieuwendyk as a pro scout and advisor.