STOCKHOLM — Gary Bettman did not escalate a war of words with Ottawa Senators owner Michael Andlauer on Thursday evening.
Speaking with reporters inside the Avicii Arena prior to the Senators-Red Wings Global Series game, Bettman had his first opportunity to respond to the Ottawa owner’s pointed comments regarding a forfeited first round pick.
Exactly two weeks ago, an animated Andlauer expressed his frustrations over surrendering a first-round selection in one of the next three NHL drafts after a league investigation determined the organization played a pivotal role in a nullified trade involving forward Evgenii Dadonov in March of 2022.
“Why I inherited this is beyond me. There is no reason for this to last this long,” Andlauer said on November 2. “That’s a question you’ll have to ask the NHL, why it took a whole year since the hearing. The commissioner had a lot of time to deliberate.”
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And so on Thursday evening, that question was put to Bettman about Andlauer’s frustration with the process.
“I’m not going to get into a public debate with Michael Andlauer. I don’t think that’s constructive for me, him or the league,” Bettman said Thursday. “I’m more than comfortable with what we did and maybe on reflection, Michael will be — if not already — more comfortable with the way things were handled.”
Interestingly, Bettman did leave the door slightly ajar for Andlauer and the Senators to appeal this decision. The commissioner was reminded that when New Jersey was forced to surrender a first-round pick for their cap circumvention of in 2010, the league ultimately reduced that penalty three years later. Instead of losing a first-round pick, the Devils were forced to select 30th in the 2014 draft and were not eligible for the lottery that year.
Ottawa will have to inform the league within 24 hours of the NHL draft lottery — either in 2024, 2025 or 2026 — if they are planning on forfeiting their first-round selection that year.
And since the Senators have an option of punting their decision down the road until 2026, there is a small path to a similar outcome as New Jersey received.
“I consider the matter closed, but I’m always open for dialogue with owners on any subject they want at any point in time,” explained Bettman. “It doesn’t mean that we’re inviting it, it doesn’t mean that it will be changed. But Michael is free to talk to me as he is and he’s always free to express himself as he did.”
The Senators’ missteps around the Dadonov situation ultimately cost Pierre Dorion his job as general manager. Over the past couple of weeks there has been a lot conversation about how the NHL can prevent a similar catastrophe from occurring. At the NHL’s general manager’s meetings on Wednesday in Toronto, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Pierre LeBrun there is a simple solution available.
“What the managers heard today was that they are in total control of this if they want to be in control of this,” Daly told The Athletic. “They can file the no-trade lists with us and eliminate any risk to them, or they don’t have to.”
Daly made it clear the league was placing the burden solely on individual teams to avoid any confusion when it comes to no-trade clauses being filed.
“It’s totally up to the club as to how they want to control it,” Daly said.
On Thursday, Bettman was also pressed about the lack of transparency around the details regarding Shane Pinto’s 41-game suspension last month for gambling-related activities. When the league announced the suspension on October 26, they offered a vague explanation around the circumstances.
“The League’s investigation found no evidence that Pinto made any wagers on NHL games,” the league wrote in a statement. “The NHL considers this matter closed, absent the emergence of new information, and will have no further comment.”
On Thursday, Bettman said he was “glad it’s viewed as a significant” suspension for Pinto.
The commissioner then added a little bit more context to the situation — although he stopped well short of clearly outlining the exact transgression Pinto was guilty of committing.
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“What’s clear is there was no betting on NHL hockey. But there are lots of ways that you can involve yourself in sports betting that are inappropriate. Most of them are common sense,” Bettman said. “Without telling you what Shane did or didn’t do, if you’re in a jurisdiction where you’re not supposed to be betting. If you’re betting on a platform that says you shouldn’t be sharing an account, you shouldn’t be sharing an account. Or in a jurisdiction where people shouldn’t be placing bets for you, you shouldn’t be doing that. So there’s a litany of things that are as a matter of common sense.”
Towards the end of Thursday’s press conference, Bettman and deputy commissioner were asked how Pinto could serve a 41-game suspension when he hasn’t signed a contract yet. Pinto remains an unsigned type 10.2 (c) free agent, which means he doesn’t have arbitration rights and cannot sign an offer sheet with another team.
“He’s not earning a salary for 41 games,” Daly said flatly.
Bettman argued the Pinto situation was unique and required an outside-the-box solution.
“Circumstances sometimes require that you take a step back and analyze what’s going on instead of just using some rogue formula,” Bettman added. “Once it was clear he was being investigated, his team didn’t think it was a good idea to sign him while the investigation was going on. So that in fact, was a de facto suspension.”
(Photo of Gary Bettman in Stockholm on Nov. 16, 2023: Jesper Zerman / Bildbyran / Sipa via AP Images)