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NHL will not participate in 2018 Olympics, what does this mean for Alex Ovechkin?

NHL will not participate in 2018 Olympics, what does this mean for Alex Ovechkin?

After weeks of speculation, the NHL closed the book on the 2018 Olympics on Monday declaring the league would not be participating in PyeongChang.

The NHL released this statement regarding the Olympics:

We have previously made clear that, while the overwhelming majority of our Clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject. A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized. Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL’s participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018. And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the Clubs. As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 Regular Season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed.

Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, also released a statement on Monday saying, "We knew it was a very real possibility for many months and certainly respect the decision of the NHL. The good news is that because of our grassroots efforts over the course of many years, our player pool is as deep as it has ever been and we fully expect to field a team that will play for a medal."

Despite the NHL’s recent rhetoric regarding participating, Monday’s announcement is still a rather stunning development.

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So how did we get here?

At issue is the fact that, after participating in the last five Olympics, a majority of the NHL owners do not believe the benefits out-weigh the risks. By participating in the Olympics, teams are risking the health of their best players in a tournament in which the NHL has no financial stakes in. Play also suffers in a condensed schedule as has been evident at times this season thanks to the new bye week and preseason World Cup Tournament.

The two biggest questions now are what does this mean for players like Alex Ovechkin in 2018 and what does this mean for Beijing in 2022?

Ovechkin has made clear his intentions to represent Team Russia regardless of whether the NHL participates or not. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has also said he will support the captain. How the league will handle these issues remains to be seen. Ovechkin will certainly not be the only player who wants to leave to play in PyeongChang. What can the league or teams do to prevent it? Will others (Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, etc.) follow suit?

This also potentially puts the NHL’s participation in 2022 in jeopardy. The league has made no secret of its hopes to extend the reach of the game through China even going so far as to put a two-game preseason series in there in 2017.

As the NHL’s statement details, the IOC basically told the league participating in the Beijing games in 2022 depended upon its participation in 2018. Which makes sense. So the Olympics are totally unimportant and not worth participating in…until 2022 because that’s a market you’re interested in? Yeah, no thanks. You can do both or neither.

Obviously the NHL is calling the IOC’s bluff. This all sets up another staring contest for 2022. The quality of competition will suffer without the world’s best players, but everyone knows the NHL wants to participate in 2022 so why would the IOC make any concessions?

So who will be playing in the Olympics? No doubt there will be a significant number of players from the KHL. Team Canada and USA will likely have to use junior and college players to fill the ranks as well as veterans playing overseas.

While the NHL hoped to put an end to the speculation before the playoffs, Monday’s announcement has raised more questions than it answered. But, it did answer the biggest question of all and answered it emphatically.

“We now consider the matter officially closed.”

MORE CAPITALS: NHL Power Rankings: Finishing strong?

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'Canes Svechnikov says Ovechkin asked him to fight first in Game 3

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'Canes Svechnikov says Ovechkin asked him to fight first in Game 3

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Game 3 fight between Hurricanes rookie Andrei Svechnikov and Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. Finally, though, Svechnikov shared his side of the story Saturday.

The Russian forward returned to the ice for the Hurricanes' morning skate prior to Game 5, then told the media that Ovechkin was the first to ask him to fight before the two dropped the gloves. They exchanged a couple of punches before Ovechkin knocked out Svechnikov, which ultimately put him in concussion protocol and kept him out of the lineup.

"He ask me first for fight," Svechnikov told Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. "I'm not a superhero, ask first for fight... I said yes. I just want to stand up for myself."

Sara Civ, The Athletic's Hurricanes beat reporter, also said that Ovechkin apologized to Svechnikov after the game.

Svechnikov is hopeful to return to Game 6, but will not return to the lineup Saturday. Gulitti reported that he was in a yellow (probably non-contact) jersey and was sporting a full cage at practice.

Washington and Carolina square off for Game 5 at 8 p.m. Saturday on NBC.

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

ARLINGTON — Devante Smith-Pelly will skate onto the ice at Capital One Arena tonight and the crowd will roar. They will chant “D-S-P!” and give him an ovation and he will try to keep a stone-faced focus, though it will be hard.

Not bad for a player who was cut in February, passed on by 30 other NHL teams and banished to the minors after a disappointing season and a salary-cap crunch. But that is life as a Stanley Cup playoff folk hero. After scoring seven goals with 19 points during last year’s postseason, including the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the final series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Smith-Pelly bought himself a lifetime of good will. 

Now, an injury to T.J. Oshie gets him another chance with the Capitals. Smith-Pelly will be in the lineup tonight when Washington hosts the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series (8 p.m., NBC). 

“I don’t know if weird is the word. It’s a business,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s hard to go through something like that. I missed the guys a lot. I still kept in touch with pretty much everyone. It was just going there and doing what I had to do and waiting for a shot. It’s unfortunate that [Oshie] had to get hurt.”

Smith Pelly had just four goals and four assists in 54 games this season and was held out of several preseason games to get his conditioning where it needed to be. When the Capitals traded for forward Carl Hagelin on Feb. 21 they needed salary-cap space to make the move, according to general manager Brian MacLellan. He chose waiving Smith-Pelly over Dmitrij Jaskin. 

When Smith-Pelly cleared waivers, Washington sent him to AHL Hershey so he could play and be ready if needed again. That didn’t seem likely when the playoffs began and the salary cap was no longer an issue. MacLellan said the team had no immediate plans to recall Smith-Pelly just so he could sit. 

But the Capitals wanted him to stay in game shape in case injuries struck – and they finally did on Monday in Game 4. T.J. Oshie is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Smith-Pelly got the recall and is in the lineup tonight at right wing on the fourth line. It is another chance for a player who was once a second-round draft pick, but has been let go by three previous organizations (Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey) and found himself on tenuous ground with the Capitals. This isn’t how he wanted it to be. But now he’s back. 

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about it. I was watching the games and cheering the guys on,” Smith-Pelly said. “I wasn’t really sure. I definitely didn’t want to get a chance by someone else getting hurt. That’s for sure. So I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird spot. I’m focused on playing the playoffs there and helping the team there. I wasn’t really thinking about too much about what would happen.”

News and notes

Still no update on Oshie other than he’s out indefinitely, according to coach Todd Reirden. He will obviously not play in Game 5 after crashing into the boards following a nudge from behind by Carolina forward Warren Foegele. … Reirden’s lineup changes include Carl Hagelin moving to right wing on the second line and Chandler Stephenson joining Smith-Pelly and Nic Dowd on the fourth line. … After a nice first playoff game, rookie Jonas Siegenthaler will start with John Carlson, who moves to his natural right side. He'd been starting games on the left with Nick Jensen.  

Game 5 lineup

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Carl Hagelin

Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly

 

Jonas Siegenthaler – John Carlson 

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen 

 

Braden Holtby 

 

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