NHL general managers recommend changing instigator suspension rule

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Concerned that skilled players, notably Sidney Crosby, are not getting the protection they should, the league's GMs agreed that a player shouldn't receive a two-game suspension until he has accumulated five instigating penalties. Under the current rules, a player receives the suspension after three instigating infractions.

The NHL's competition committee, which comprises players and GMs, and the board of governors need to approve the change this spring.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says he isn't concerned about the optics of the rule change, which would essentially allowing tough guys to drop the gloves more often without fear of suspension.

"Among other things, it means a skilled player doesn't have to fight," Bettman said after Day 2 of the GM meetings wrapped up. "This wouldn't be the first time that we adjusted this. You fine-tune it, and if you need to adjust it again, you do."

Ben Eager of the Philadelphia Flyers is the only player to have earned the two-game suspension so far this season for earning three instigators.

While trade talk continued to heat up as GMs spent more time together at a posh resort, other recommendations were also made Tuesday. They also need rubber-stamping from the competition committee and board of governors, who are scheduled to meet in June.

-Video replay: Starting next season referees could have a direct phone line to the war room at the league's head office in Toronto, as well as have TV monitors in the penalty box to watch replays. Currently referees only have direct communication with the video goal review official in the arena;

-Going to a one-minute penalty in overtime instead of traditional two minutes: The GMs agreed it's too soon to try this in the NHL next season but perhaps can be tried out in rookie tournaments next fall and/or possibly in the AHL.

One of the more interesting topics of discussion - going to three points for a regulation-time victory - was pushed back to Wednesday, the final day of meetings.

In the meantime, GMs used the rest of their downtime to continue trade talks. Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland was seen having a quiet moment with St. Louis Blues GM Larry Pleau. The speculation is that Blues wingers Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin - both unrestricted free agents July 1 - are available.

Without naming names, Holland said he wasn't close on any front.

"The prices are a bit high right now," Holland said. "I've done a lot of talking, but nothing yet."

Toronto Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson, who is also looking to add a forward, agreed.

"I would say the prices are very high," he said.

The Wings have been linked to Guerin, as have Anaheim, San Jose and Toronto. Right now the price is believed to be at least a first-round draft pick.

Like the Blues, the Florida Panthers will also be sellers. Head coach and GM Jacques Martin sounded like he would prefer to wait until the 11th hour before possibly dealing free-agents-to-be Gary Roberts, Martin Gelinas, Jozef Stumpel, Ed Belfour, Ville Peltonen and Todd Bertuzzi.

The trade deadline is next Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.

"Our priority is to get into the playoffs," said Martin, still hopeful despite being nine points back before Tuesday's games. "I think probably depending on how we do this week is probably crucial. But in the meantime there is interest in certain of our people and we're investigating.

"If we can get something that's going to help our organization we will. If not we like the people that we have."

Roberts has a no-trade clause and has indicated that if the Panthers want to deal him, he'd like to go to Toronto or Ottawa. But don't count out Buffalo if neither Ontario team makes a pitch.

"Knowing Gary for a long time I think we have a good relationship and a certain understanding of where we're going," said Martin.

First-round picks were sacrificed in the Peter Forsberg and Ladislav Nagy deals this month but Martin would prefer prospects.

"I feel it's not draft picks it's somebody else, maybe a younger player that will be able to help our organization for many years," he said.

The Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo Sabres are riddled with injuries. Forwards Maxim Afinogenov, Tim Connolly, Ales Kotalik and Jiri Novotny and defenceman Jaroslav Spacek are among the wounded, so GM Darcy Regier may have to reconsider his preference not to move backup goalie Martin Biron. He's an unrestricted free agent as of July 1.

The Sabres wanted to keep Biron as insurance to starter Ryan Miller but the US$2.1 million Biron would open up in cap space if he were to be traded might be too valuable to Regier if he needs to bolster his forward group due to the injuries. The Sabres' payroll is right at the $44-million cap limit right now.

"The stance on Marty is more about choice," said Regier. "Our flexibility is so limited that it's really depth choices. It's where do you want to buy your insurance? Do you want to have it in your goalies? Do you want to have an extra defenceman? Do you want to have an extra forward? You can't have all three. Under the old system, you could have all three."



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