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Daily Cupcakes - Links from around the unlocked out NHL - January 16th, 2013

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Doug Pensinger

The owners are increasing the amount of money they put into a benefits package, and now we await news to see if the NHLPA will match it.

Twenty years ago, NHL owners were embroiled in a vicious lawsuit with a group of former players, led by Carl Brewer, who alleged the league had illegally taken $22 million from player pensions.

The league lost that suit, then spent two more years appealing it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada before losing. The owners were forced to pay more than $40 million back to the players.

Well, perhaps NHL owners have reformed their ways for good.

The Star has learned that last week, after ratifying a new collective bargaining agreement with the players on the heels of a painful 113-day lockout, NHL owners also unilaterally decided to improve a special benefit program for former players 65 and over by 50 per cent.

Yesterday, in the Daily Cupcakes, I told you that there were reports that Markus Naslund, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin were refusing to testify in the Steve Moore - Todd Bertuzzi case. Yesterday I said that Naslund was denying this. The Sedins and the Vancouver Canucks are now denying it as well.

The Sedin twins and former Canucks captain Markus Naslund are mystified about a report out of Toronto claiming they’ve refused to testify on behalf of Steve Moore in his civil suit against Todd Bertuzzi.

"That’s not true," Daniel Sedin said on Monday afternoon. "That’s all I’m going to say."

Naslund, responding by text from Sweden, where he is general manager of the hockey club Modo in the Elite League, told The Province: "I’ve never been approached to testify."

The Leader Post has a preview of the Western teams.


. . Last season: 41-35-6, 88 points, 11th in West, missed playoffs.

. . Breakdown: The Avalanche will continue a youth movement led by 20-year-old captain Gabriel Landeskog, the 2012 NHL rookie of the year. Like the Oilers, the Avalanche has a chance to reap big gains this season, but Colorado's core did not have the luxury of playing together during the labour dispute. Also, it remains to be seen whether the Avs have enough depth to make a strong run down the stretch.

The Edmonton Journal writes that while Colorado hopes to have Ryan O`Reilly back in the lineup soon, "Every other team in the Western Conference hopes they fail".

O’Reilly is critical to Colorado’s playoff hopes. Last year, the Avalanche finished the season with a minus-12 goal differential and fell short of the playoffs by seven points; they added P-A Parenteau and Greg Zanon in the off-season to help make up the gap. O’Reilly was their leading scorer, recording 55 points, even while seeing the toughest minutes of any centre on the team. While the Avalanche have solid depth up the middle – Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny are both excellent players – the team can’t really afford to lose its best pivot.

If Colorado fails to come to terms with O’Reilly, their loss will be a gain for the rest of the Western Conference and the Northwest Division in particular. The Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild are slated to play Colorado five times each over the course of the NHL’s 48-game season, while Vancouver and Calgary will face them four times and other Western Conference teams play a total of three games each. Interestingly, O’Reilly was especially impressive against the Oilers last season, scoring seven points in six games – more than he did against any other team.

Alex Tanguay is going to be playing Center, again.

When Alex Tanguay broke into the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche back in 1999 he had two options.

He could switch from his natural centre position and play left-wing on a line with Joe Sakic, or he could watch from the press box.

"I became a left-wing then and I've been that ever since," said Tanguay, who was also behind Peter Forsberg and Stephane Yelle on Colorado's depth chart at centre. "It was fun for me to get to watch some of the best players. I knew I wasn't going to play that position so I made the adjustment."

Bob Hartley, who was Colorado's coach at the time, recalled that he initially tried Tanguay out at centre a few times during practice.

A new "Scott Gomez" rule?

It appears Gomez and Redden could be free to sign with new teams as early as the weekend.

Under the "accelerated buyouts" arrangement reached Tuesday, clubs will be allowed to exercise one of their two buyout options before the season opens, as long as the salary cap charge is above $3 million.

The player will have to be put on waivers no later than Thursday; in the event he isn’t claimed and sent to the minors or loaned to a European club, the player could elect to be paid a pro-rated portion of this year’s salary and up to two-thirds of the remaining value of his contract - the provisions vary.

"Older" players may be more prone to injuries this season.

Matt Nichol, a Toronto-based conditioning guru to many NHLers like Mike Cammalleri, Chris Stewart, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Stajan, Nik Antropov and Tyler Seguin, remarked there could be advantages to both playing in Europe and staying at home.

"All the leagues in Europe are different," Nichol said. "Some players were playing a similar role than they do in the NHL and some were in different roles. I had a number of clients who played in different leagues. Some conditions were great, some were horrible. Some leagues had intense practices, others did not.

"For some younger players, it was advantageous to keep accumulating their time on ice to work on their craft. Some of the older players needed more time off and needed more time in the gym to work on their strength."

There are reports that the KHL may uphold their deal with the NHL.

On Tuesday, Yahoo Sports reported that the KHL had turned down Visnovsky's request to extend his KHL contract to the end of the season.

ESPN reported that the KHL and NHL may negotiate on the matter.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Times on Monday that, "we had further contact with the KHL (on Monday), and they continue to assert that Visnovsky will be ineligible to play in KHL games without the Islanders' consent."