Then there were three?

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Lisa Dill­man lisa. dill­man@ latimes. com

GMs rec­om­mend three- on- three play for OT to re­place cur­rent four- on- four for­mat in NHL.

LAS VE­GAS — The NHL is tweak­ing the game and re­shap­ing its teams.

League gen­eral man­agers meet­ing here rec­om­mended a f ive- minute, three- on- three overtime and pro­posed a coach’s chal­lenge in lim­ited sit­u­a­tions: goalie- in­ter­fer­ence calls and missed off­side calls that lead to goals scored.

Move­ment to­ward pos­si­ble ex­pan­sion is ex­pected to take cen­ter stage Wed­nes­day as Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman will up­date the own­ers at the Board of Gover­nors meet­ing about the progress of a Las Ve­gas group, led by busi­ness­man and prospec­tive owner Bill Fo­ley. The board will also con­sider Tues­day’s rec­om­men­da­tions from the GMs. The league’s awards are set for Wed­nes­day night.

Ad­di­tion­ally, team ex­ec­u­tives re­ceived the news that next sea­son’s salary cap will be $ 71.4 mil­lion. Ducks Gen­eral Man­ager Bob Mur­ray and Kings Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent Jeff Solomon both said that num­ber was on the high end of their pro­jec­tions.

This doesn’t mean Mur­ray plans to make another of­fer to for­ward Matt Be­leskey, who is due to be­come an un­re­stricted free agent July 1. Af­ter Tues­day’s meet­ings here, Mur­ray said Be­leskey re­jected the Ducks’ last of­fer “im­me­di­ately.”

“I’m very com­fort­able with the of­fer we made. We made a re­ally good of­fer, and it’s just a part of hockey now,” Mur­ray said. “We learned this the hard way a few years ago, about over­spend­ing and get­ting your­self in trou­ble.”

The Ducks’ last of­fer to Be­leskey was be­lieved to have been a four- year deal worth $ 16 mil­lion. Be­leskey, who had 22 goals and 32 points in the reg­u­lar sea­son, was out­stand­ing in the play­offs with eight goals and Mur­ray took note of that.

“We’ve turned him into a pretty good hockey player,” Mur­ray said. “But I could have traded him the day be­fore the dead­line — I had a deal — and I just said ‘ No, that was wrong for my hockey team.’ ”

The GMs, mean­while, ac­knowl­edged the pop­u­lar­ity of shootouts, but they are try­ing to get the num­ber down. Four on four for f ive min­utes, the cur­rent for­mat in overtime, isn’t cut­ting it.

“I’m not against any­thing that gets fewer shootouts,” Mur­ray said. “Fewer shootouts, the bet­ter. Three on three is fun. Three on three is a great thing.”

Said Detroit’s Ken Hol­land: “I be­lieve three on three is go­ing to be as en­ter­tain­ing as the shootout, maybe more en­ter­tain­ing, be­cause it’s go­ing to be a team con­cept. There’s go­ing to be break­downs, two on ones, break­aways in­volved in three on three.”

Philadelphia’s Ron Hex­tall, a for­mer goalie, was able to ex­am­ine the for­mat, view­ing it at the Amer­i­can Hockey League level. “It’s free f low­ing,” he said. “It’s chance for chance. It’s tough on a goalie, but it’s ex­cit­ing.”

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