McCarthy: NHL will look at reforming annual combine

Dave McCarthy
3/12/2014 3:18:57 PM
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BOCA RATON, Florida - NHL GMs took part of the final day of meetings in Boca Raton, Florida to discuss the annual combine that runs in late May prior to the NHL entry draft in June. The event puts invited prospects through a serious of fitness tests and allows teams to interview targeted prospects to gain a further understanding into their psychological makeup.

But some teams have run team specific combines in the past to further evaluate prospects, which has been seen by several teams as an unfair competitive advantage. As a result, the NHL is contemplating placing limits and restrictions on the amount of players that teams can assemble for further testing.

"There was a discussion about that," said Commissioner Gary Bettman. "A change like that would require Board of Governor approval but I think that there was a sense in the room that it might be a good idea."

Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray was the loudest proponent against these limitations. For the past three years, the Sabres have held their own combine; this past year bringing in over 75 players for a four day period for interviews and on ice work.

"I come from a scouting background," said Murray, who has held scouting positions with the Florida Panthers, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers. "I don't want to criticize the combine we have but I want to be able to supplement that with what I want to do. I'm looking for athletes and there are certain tests (that we feel are important) versus strength tests."

But despite his instance, Murray had little success in persuading his colleagues.

"Some of the veteran guys said you fought a great battle but it was a losing battle," said Murray, who is the shortest tenured GM in the NHL right now. "It looks like the majority want to streamline it to one combine and not allow us guys that feel that doing a little more is a benefit. MacT (Oilers GM Craig MacTavish) said to me, 'it was a great battle, but you couldn't win'."

The NHL intends to consider options now to enhance the league-run combine in May. Gary Bettman also suggested incorporating an on ice component to the combine in the future would be explored.

Other News From Commissioner Gary Bettman

- On the potential impact of a weaker Canadian dollar (currently at .90 cents US) on the 2014-15 salary cap.

"I'm not sure that it's a concern, it is what it is. The system accounts for fluctuations in currency which is why we do everything with the computations in US dollars. If the Canadian dollar goes down, then the cap goes down a little bit but the system contemplates that. It's not an issue, it's not a problem. It is what it is."

- On the projected $71 million cap that was suggested to the Board of Governors in September.

"A lot of people were talking about the number that we showed the board in September; that was an illustration because it wasn't based on anything, we didn't have any revenues yet. We said after we get to the end of the regular season, we may be able to better project what it looks like. With the Canadian dollar where it is, maybe you're looking at a million or two million difference in the cap and based on where the cap is likely to be, it's not that big a deal."

- On penalties for removing helmets priors to fights due to visors and whether an alteration would be made given that visors are now mandatory for all players entering the league.

"Wasn't discussed and it's not more a problem than you've either perceived it to be or not to be. It wasn't an issue."

- On cracking down on fights involving goaltenders.

"The rules are what they are and from a whole variety of constituencies including the players, there doesn't seem to be any change in the consensus right now. To effectuate a change there'd have to be a change among the constituent groups. I've been told that if you ask the players, it would be 99-1 that you leave it the way it is. It's something will continue to look at but there is nothing to report."

- On potential expansion announcements before the end of the season.

"If there would be? I doubt it. It's not anything we're contemplating. We have no expansion process that we're going through. It's not something that we envision happening anytime soon, if at all. I know there's a lot of speculation and yes, there's a lot of interest, we're getting a lot of interest from multiple parties and multiple places but it's not anything yet that we're prepared to deal with on a formal basis."

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