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IOC bans Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics; hockey participation still unclear

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IOC bans Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics; hockey participation still unclear

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) made a stunning announcement on Tuesday, declaring the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee and the banning of Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The action was taken due to the findings of the Schmid Report, led by the former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid.

The report confirmed “the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia, through the Disappearing Positive Methodology and during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, as well as the various levels of administrative, legal and contractual responsibility, resulting from the failure to respect the respective obligations of the various entities involved.”

The IOC did create a path for clean Russian athletes to participate in PyeongChang, but they will compete under the name of “Olympic Athlete from Russia” with a uniform bearing that name and under the Olympic flag. The Olympic Anthem would be played in place of the Russian anthem in any ceremony.

The decision will have far-reaching consequence for every sport, but particularly in hockey. Given that the NHL already decided not to participate in the 2018 Olympics, the KHL looked to be the premier league from which athletes could be taken.

When it was clear an Olympic ban was a real possibility, however, the KHL began discussing the possibility of not participating either. Most players in the KHL are Russian and — as the second best hockey league in the world — an Olympic tournament without NHL players would have made Russia the clear favorites to win.

With Russia now banned, the KHL has no incentive to allow athletes from other countries to participate.

Russia could still compete in the hockey tournament as a neutral team, but it is unclear whether they will go that route.

For the U.S. and Canada, a KHL ban would further limit the players in which they could choose for their teams.

There are still minor leagues like the AHL, though players in the AHL with NHL contracts are also barred from participating, as well as junior leagues and the NCAA. There are also several other European hockey leagues such as those in Sweden and Switzerland.

Alex Ovechkin was an outspoken critic of the NHL’s decision not to participate in the Olympics and even went so far as to declare he would participate for his native Russia regardless, though he later backed down from that declaration.

The IOC’s ban means now that he won’t be missing out on the opportunity to represent his home country, though it is doubtful he will find any consolation from Tuesday’s stunning news.

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Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.

Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.

Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.

One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.

Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.

Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.

Or perhaps it could mean something else.

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS' TOP PROSPECTS

Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.

When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.

Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.

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Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

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USA TODAY Sports

Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

On Sunday, Michal Kempny was a defenseman struggling for a spot in the lineup for a team poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. On Monday, he became potentially an important piece on the roster of the first place Capitals.

The last few days have been quite the whirlwind for Kempny who tallied an assist for Chicago on Saturday in a 7-1 blowout against what is now his current team. While the Blackhawks may have gotten the better of Washington that night, Kempny is excited about the postseason opportunity that now lies in front of him.

"Nobody knows what's happening in Chicago, but I'm really happy and I'm really glad that I can be here," Kempny told reporters on Tuesday after his first skate with the team. "There is option of play a playoff and I'm very happy for it."

RELATED: WHERE MICHAL KEMKPNY FITS IN THE CAPS' LINEUP

The 27-year-old Czech defenseman played only 31 games for the Blackhawks this season, but considering Washington's need to shore up its defense before the trade deadline and the team's willingness to give up a third-round pick to acquire him, it is likely he will have a much more significant role with the Caps.

"I thought that I [was] going to get more space on the ice and more ice time, but I didn't play more than half games," Kempny said of his decision to originally sign with Chicago. "But now I'm here and I'm really glad that I'm here. Washington is amazing city and great organization and I hope I will get a chance to access myself on the ice more than in Chicago."

Kempny will not play in Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but did say he expects to play Thursday when the team visits the Florida Panthers.

When he does get into the lineup, it is unclear just how big a role he will play initially or how the team foresees utilizing him going forward. He is a left-shot defenseman and did tell reporters he prefers to play on that side. It seems unlikely the team would acquire him just to put him on his offside.

As of now, however, everything regarding his role in Washington is up on the air.

"I need everything settle down a little bit," he said. "New teammates, new people around here."

MORE CAPITALS: MEET MICHAL KEMPNY