It's plausible the Buffalo Sabres open next season without two of their top players.
The Buffalo News issued a disturbing report Thursday about Evander Kane, who is expected to face noncriminal charges after a night of alleged physical encounters downtown. Meanwhile, Ryan O'Reilly is scheduled to head to trial next week in Ontario to face the charges of impaired driving and failure to remain at the scene filed last summer.
Though nothing would be expected until the conclusion of the court proceedings, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has the ability to fine, suspend or even terminate the players' contracts. From the NHL's collective bargaining agreement:
18-A.2 Commissioner Authority to Impose Discipline for Off-Ice Conduct.
Whenever the Commissioner determines that a Player has violated a League Rule applicable to Players (other than Playing Rules subjecting the Player to potential Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct), or has been or is guilty of conduct (whether during or outside the playing season) that is detrimental to or against the welfare of the League or the game of hockey, he may discipline such Player in any or all of the following respects:
(a) by expelling or suspending such Player for a definite or indefinite period;
(b) by cancelling any SPC that such Player has with any Member Club; or
(c) by imposing a fine on the Player not exceeding the maximum permissible fine under Section 18.7(b).
Any suspension would likely include the opening game of the season. The Sabres open the 2016-17 schedule at home Oct. 13 against Montreal.