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Dreger Report: NHL taking jersey rule seriously; RFA updates

Darren Dreger
9/19/2013 1:42:33 PM
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NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom issued a memo to his on-ice officials on Wednesday, instructing that they start calling a delay of game penalty on any player who ignores a warning to conform to the now-enforced equipment standards.

And Carolina's Alex Semin felt the brunt of this call, receiving a two-minute penalty for having his sweater tucked into his pants late in the first period of the Hurricanes' preseason game against Columbus.

According to the league's mandate - which gained traction last March at the NHL's general managers meetings - players will be warned and then penalized if they intentionally ignore protocol. Penalties may also be called on players who don't have their hockey pants properly zippered, or for those who choose to play with their sleeves rolled to their elbow pads.

Safety concerns are the primary reason for closely monitoring how a player adjusts his sleeves or pants, but the managers' issues with those who choose tuck their sweater in speaks more to marketing and identification of the players and his number.

And cue the Wayne Gretzky eye roll.

By today's standard, every NHL player will have to have his sweater properly draped over his pants and covering all hard equipment...otherwise, he will face the wrath of the fashion poli...er, the referees.

Now without question, NHL officials do not - and will not - like having to call these penalties, but league sources insist they will not back off and hope the more penalties called in the preseason will translate into fewer calls in the regular season as the players conform.

As an aside, I watched a Pee Wee AAA team practice on Wednesday and counted 11 of 15 skaters with their sweaters tucked. Most of these boys have no idea why they do it, other than they think it looks cool and - of course -  Alex Ovechkin wears his sweater that way.

Or, did.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking toward a final decision on the use of hybrid icing in the upcoming regular season. 

The NHLPA has to sign off on the change before it can be officially implemented. The PA intends on gathering feedback from players starting next week, but no decision has been made by the players as to how the intel will be gathered.

While it's too soon to predict how the players will act on the matter in the days ahead, there's reason to believe they will opt to stay with status quo and reject hybrid icing.

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New York's Derek Stepan and Toronto's Cody Franson are continuing their 'hardball' approach as both restricted free agents remain at an impasse in contract negotiations.

Given the state of discussions, Stepan - New York's top centre last season - is unlikely to be on the Rangers' roster when they open Oct. 3 in Phoenix.

Sources say that Stepan remains locked on a bridge deal that would pay him $3.5 million per year, while New York would happily sign off on a two-year agreement at $3 million per.

Doesn't sound like much, but cap teams like the Rangers are crunching every dollar to comply.

While the Rangers see a great future in Stepan, they also like their depth up the middle with Brad Richards, Derick BrassardBrian Boyle and Dominic Moore.

Toronto seems just as happy to start the season without Cody Franson and unless their hand is forced by an offer sheet, the team could let Franson sit for an extended period - as in weeks or months.

The Leafs have offered Franson a two-year deal at just under $2.4 million and sound unwilling to accept Franson's counter of a one-year contract unless the money comes in at $2 million or less.

Unlikely.

Franson deserves more, but if Toronto gives in on a one-year contract, Franson regains arbitration rights next summer - one year out from unrestricted free agency - which puts the Leafs in a very vulnerable bargaining position.

Replacing Franson in the lineup is tough, but the addition of Paul Ranger - combined with the potential of Morgan Rielly and Andrew MacWilliam - is fueling the Leafs' brass to hold its ground in this dispute.

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The NHL's Board of Governors meet on Monday in New York.

As per usual, this meeting will serve as a 'state of the NHL' update.

Franchise matters ranging from the expected sale of the Florida Panthers, the sale of the New Jersey Devils and the latest on the Ilitch family's ownership transfer in Detroit will be covered by the commissioner's office.

Some around the league expect future expansion to find its way into discussions at the board level on Monday as well.

If Seattle's plan to construct a new building is followed through, it's believed Seattle will remain of interest to the NHL. However, sources say there isn't going to be a major expansion plan or push given the improved financial stability of all 30 NHL teams anytime soon.

Until next time...

Darren Dreger

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