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Bettman: NHL to let judicial process play out in 2018 WJC case

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National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday the prudent path for the league is to wait for the judicial process to play out regarding the five members of Canada’s 2018 World Juniors team who have been charged with sexual assault by London, Ont., police.

Bettman said he would be "surprised" if any of the players dressed for their NHL teams while the legal process was ongoing, adding that the contracts of all four NHL players involved will expire on July 1.

The commissioner, who acknowledged the league launched an "external investigation" into the allegations in 2022 that took 12 months to complete the investigatory stage, said the league has not received formal notice of the charges.

Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers, Michael McLeod and Cal Foote of the New Jersey Devils, and Dillon Dube of the Calgary Flames have been charged with sexual assault in connection with an alleged incident that occurred following a Hockey Canada event in London in June of 2018. All four players have been charged with one count of sexual assault, according to court documents obtained Thursday, with McLeod also facing an additional charge of sexual assault for “being a party to the offence."

Former Ottawa Senators forward Alex Formenton, who currently plays in Switzerland, has also been charged. Lawyers for all five players have maintained the innocence of their clients, who all intend to plead not guilty. TSN Senior Correspondent Rick Westhead noted this week that it is unlikely the case will go to trial until at least mid-2025.

The four NHL players all took leaves of absences from their respective teams from Jan. 21-23.

Hart, 25, has a 12-9-3 record with a 2.80 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage in 26 games with the Flyers this season. Signed through this season at a cap hit of $3.979 million, Hart is eligible for arbitration in restricted free agency this summer, if qualified by the Flyers.

Selected by the Flyers with the 48th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Hart has a 96-93-29 record with a .906 save percentage and a 2.94 goals-against average.

McLeod, who will turn 26 on Saturday, has 10 goals and 19 points in 45 games with the Devils this season. He carries a cap hit of $1.4 million this season and is scheduled for restricted free agency this summer.

Selected 22nd overall in the 2016 draft by the Devils, McLeod has 29 goals and 85 points in 287 games. 

Foote has one assist in four games with the Devils this season. He also posted two goals and nine points in 24 AHL games with the Utica Comets. The 25-year-old carries a cap hit of $800,000 and is scheduled for restricted free agency in July.

Selected 14th overall in the 2017 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Foote has five goals and 20 points in 145 games with the Lightning, Nashville Predators and Devils.

Dube, 25, has three goals and four assists over 43 games with the Calgary Flames this season. He carries a cap hit of $2.3 million and is scheduled for restricted free agency in July.

Selected by Calgary in the second round of the 2016 draft, Dube has 57 goals and 127 points in 325 games.

Formenton, 24, has spent the past two seasons playing with Ambri-Piotta in Switzerland after going unsigned as a restricted free agent with the Senators in 2022. He took a leave of absence from the Swiss club on Jan. 23.

He was selected 24th overall in the 2017 draft by the Senators, posting 23 goals and 39 points in 109 career games.