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Bettman: Compensation system needs another look but Sabres aren't getting their pick back from Penguins

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buffalo Sabres and teams around the NHL aren't happy they're having to give up compensation for front office employees who have been fired from their former team. Turns out NHL commissioner Gary Bettman isn't happy about it either.

But if the Sabres think they might have ideas of trying to get back that 2016 third-round pick from Pittsburgh for hiring Dan Bylsma as coach last week, Bettman also has this message: Forget about it.

"What's done is done," the NHL commissioner said here Wednesday in his annual meeting with reporters prior to Game One of the Stanley Cup final. "The fact of the matter is everybody's operating under a system, possibly with some adjustments due to some people's interpretations, but this is a system that the GMs wanted, and I aceded to. We'll see how it works for a year. That's what's going to govern what happens during this calendar year."

Bettman said he's in favor of a system long used by the league that does not offer compensation for coaches or front-office executives who wish to move. Their current team can either extend permission for them to talk to a new employer or deny it.

"Arising out of disputes eight or nine years ago, I established a policy that there is no compensation," Bettman said. "Personnel, under contract, if you want to talk to the team that had the rights, either said yes or no. Once they said yes, and the deal could be struck, then that person was free to go.

"The managers as a group for years, probably two or three, cajoled, begged, pleaded, demanded that we make a change. We wanted something that was straightforward and simple, although I believe there was nothing more straightforward and simple than what we had."

Bettman said he's going to keep the new policy in place for a full year, until Jan. 1, before the league studies whether to clarify, modify or eliminate it.

"I ultimately deferred to the GMs desire and request," Bettman said, "with the caveat that if we have any disputes we're going back to the old system. So far we haven't had any disputes. Some debates, but no disputes."

Bettman had no comment on a surprising TSN report late Wednesday afternoon that Pittsbugh Penguins owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux have hired Morgan Stanley, the same company the facilitated the Sabres' sale to Terry Pegula, to explore the possibility of selling some or all of Penguins.

"It’s not like there’s a ‘For Sale’ sign out, but that’s a definite possibility,” a anonymous source familiar with the situation told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Wednesday night. Even if the owners opt to sell controlling interest in the franchise, the source told the paper, “there wouldn’t be a complete cutting of ties” because “both are interested in keeping some stake.”

The paper also confirmed the team is not a candidate for relocation. It is on a long-term lease at Consol Energy Center.

In other news from Bettman:

---He said Internet rumors that exploded Wednesday about a team being relocated at the end of the month are completely unfounded. The likely candidates are Arizona or Florida but Bettman reiterated what he said a few weeks ago by nothing the Panthers are moving "on the absolute right track" new owner Vinnie Viola.

“I don’t know why publications make those things up, even under the guise of a rumor," Bettman said. "The Panthers are not filing for bankruptcy. I don’t know where these stories come from, but they’re not true.”

---He listed release of the 2015-16 regular-season schedule as on the docket for the league's busy June activities that include the final, the Combine at HarborCenter and First Niagara Center and the draft June 26-27 in Sunrise, Fla. The schedule release is a hot topic for Sabres fans looking forward to the debut of Jack Eichel, and will be watched by those around the league for Bylsma's first return to Pittsburgh and winger Evander Kane's return to Winnipeg.

---On the Toronto Maple Leafs spending $50 million to sign Mike Babcock, an unheard-of figure for a coach: "Our clubs are free to do what they think is in their own best interest when they're retaining executive talent, managerial talent. In Toronto, Mike Babcock decided this was a good thing for both of them to do, that's their decision."

---Las Vegas has sold 11,500 season tickets and Bettman said he would prospective owner Bill Foley's report of that figure to the NHL board of governors later this month.

"It looks like his drive has had some degree of success, to say the least," said Bettman, who said he would recommend a formal expansion process to the board if they were happy with that figure. That would not guarantee a franchise, just a process to explore the granting of one.

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