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Board of Governors: Gary Bettman gives Senators franchise vote of confidence

Following Wednesday’s meeting in Las Vegas, Bettman expressed optimism about Ottawa’s future and indicated the salary cap would land at or near $80 million.

LAS VEGAS – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly addressed media Wednesday following the NHL Board of Governors meeting at the Encore at Wynn Hotel. Plenty of major topics were up for discussion, from a salary cap increase to Seattle expansion to the scandals surrounding the Ottawa Senators. And while Bettman and Daly couldn’t tip their hands on much, they provided a few noteworthy updates.

First off, pending approval from the NHL Players’ Association, Bettman announced that the 2018-19 salary caps will land between $79.5 million and $80 million, meaning an increase between 6 and 6.67 percent, with player escrow withholding starting at about 8 percent, which would be the lowest number in years.

The board also reviewed the new sports betting rules for the sport. As Bettman explained, the key is locking down consistency of legislature among states or when dealing directly with the gambling industry.

Bettman explained that Colin Campbell, the league’s executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, provided an update from the competition committee, which has suggested slimming down goaltenders’ chest and arm equipment and contouring it closer to their bodies while still keeping them safe.

Seattle expansion might’ve been the day’s most anticipated news had Bettman not already indicated that no official decisions would come down this week. He did still offer this brief update: “Other than the application continuing, we’re not yet on a timetable, but things seem to be progressing without any hitches to this point.” Asked if a franchise could be ready by October 2020, he didn’t dismiss the possibility.

“The timetable of finishing the application and doing what we need to do, we can do that as quickly or as slowly as appropriate,” he said. “It’s a matter of weeks and months, not years. The bigger issue is going to be their timeline on the building.”

Bettman also fielded multiple questions on the future of the Senators, who are dealing with the Erik Karlsson/Mike Hoffman fallout and talk of owner Eugene Melnyk selling and relocating the franchise. Bettman essentially gave Melnyk and the Senators a vote of confidence.

“The headstone has been written over the years for many franchises under a variety of circumstances, and none of the burials ever took place, so it’s a moment in time,” he said, adding, in response to the suggestion the league has “given struggling clubs the paddles” in the past: “We don’t think the club is anywhere close to cardiac arrest.”

For anyone wondering about the status of defenseman Slava Voynov, who has not played in the NHL since 2014-15 after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to spouse and serving two months in prison: Daly explained Voynov maintains suspended status as of this time and nothing has changed yet in that regard.

The Board of Governors will convene again in September, when anticipation will again swirl about a more formal announcement regarding Seattle’s expansion bid.

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