WHILE THE NHL's general managers continue to study the impact of an extended overtime, designed to decrease the number of games decided by a shootout, the NHL Players' Association is already vocally pushing against it.
Increasing overtime to 7 minutes, including up to 4 minutes of three-on-three action, was mentioned at the general managers' meetings in November. It is expected to be an agenda item next month in Florida when the meetings reconvene.
However, NHLPA executive Mathieu Schneider expressed concern in an interview with USA Today over increased "wear and tear" on players if they were to extend overtime another 2 minutes. That amounts to maybe two shifts per team - or one extra shift per top-line player.
Strangely, the NHLPA did not have any concern about overextending players last week when announcing the return of the World Cup of Hockey in 2018. That tournament will reduce training camps for all teams and significantly increase the workload for the 150 top players in the world. Then again, the NHLPA is splitting the revenue pot with the NHL for the World Cup of Hockey.
By extending overtime to 7 minutes this season, the AHL has decided approximately 75 percent of games in overtime - meaning just one quarter of games beyond regulation requires a shootout. In the NHL this season, only 45 percent of games are decided by overtime, meaning most head to the shootout.
Nearly half of the goals scored in overtime in the AHL this season have come during three-on-three play. Before these changes were implemented this season, the AHL decided 64.7 percent of its games by shootout last year.
The Phantoms, for instance, have gone to overtime 12 times this season. Seven games were ended in overtime (three wins). The other five were decided by shootout - four of which were wins, making the baby Flyers the anti-Flyers.
The Flyers, of course, would welcome any rule change limiting the shootout's impact. They are 29-56 (.341) all-time in shootouts, by far the worst mark in the NHL since it was implemented in 2005.
For a rule change to be implemented, GMs must recommend a move, then it must be voted on by the joint NHL and NHLPA competition committee, then approved by the league's Board of Governors. We have an idea how Flyers chairman Ed Snider, the only owner on the 10-person competition committee, would vote.
"We've seen over the years rules that are implemented in leagues below and they don't always have the intended effect when we bring them to the NHL because the players are more consistent and more talented," Schneider told USA Today. "I'm not sure we would see the same results at the NHL level."
Preliminary contract talks are underway between the Flyers and pending free agent defenseman Nick Schultz, according to sources. A deal does not appear to be imminent yet. Both the Flyers and Schultz have expressed interest in an extension for the 32-year-old veteran.
Schultz is earning $1.25 million this season. Initially signed as a spare part in the summer, Schultz has played 49 of 51 games and is putting up the best numbers of his career (and the team) in advanced statistics categories. He is also near a 13-year career-high pace in points. Schultz will receive significant consideration for the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team's top defenseman.
The Flyers have not held any initial contract negotiations with pending free agent defenseman Michael Del Zotto. He is a restricted free agent - meaning the Flyers will retain his rights as long as they issue a qualifying offer to him this summer at the same $1.3 million he is earning this season.
Del Zotto's camp told the Daily News yesterday they would expect a qualifying offer to come from the Flyers. Since he has not accrued seven seasons and is not 27, he will be one of the rare RFAs to have seen life as a true unrestricted free agent, which he was last summer before the Flyers plucked him off the scrap heap in August. He has been perhaps the Flyers' best defenseman over the last month, and the argument could be made he also should be strongly considered for the Ashbee Trophy.
Del Zotto, just 24, is also arbitration-eligible. Though it's not expected to get that far, since he's on record as saying he wants to remain with the Flyers, he would be a fascinating case with excellent career numbers. He also could be dangled before the March 3 trade deadline as bait, even though he is a young, valuable and inexpensive asset.
There has been no discussion yet between Rob Zepp's camp and Ron Hextall regarding next season. Many believe Zepp, 33, is odds-on favorite to be Steve Mason's full-time backup next season . . . Mason moved past Bernie Parent on Saturday into third place on the Flyers' all-time goals-against-average register. Mason (2.40) and Parent (2.42) sit behind only John Vanbiesbrouck (2.19) and Roman Cechmanek (1.96) with a minimum of 30 appearances. Mason already is second in save percentage (.921) and 10th in saves, despite not appearing in the top 10 in games played . . . Recently demoted forward Mike Richards did not attend the Kings' celebration with President Obama yesterday . . . Matt Read is still on pace for five goals this season, despite not scoring fewer than 22 in his first two full NHL seasons.