Paul Martin Hurt During Olympics, Will Miss NHL Games

Bruce Bennett

What a day.

Add Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin to the growing list of NHL players hurt in the Sochi Winter Games.

Martin was a late scratch from the Men's Hockey Semifinals Friday morning as Team USA took on and fell to the Canadians, 1-0. He suffered a hand injury during the Americans' Quarterfinals game against the Czech Republic and was ruled out of the Semifinal round. His hand has not been placed in a cast and the diagnosis has yet to be specified.

Some are reporting Martin to be out for up to a month (or about in time to return for the NHL postseason), but nothing official will be handed down until he can be evaluated by Penguins team doctors.

Missing one of their more mobile defensemen, the Americans fell to Canada by a lone goal. It was the first loss of the tournament for the Americans and second in the last two Olympics -- both to Canada, both in the elimination round.

The US will face Finland for bronze Saturday morning.

Martin now joins John Tavares, Henrik Zetterberg and others as the latest NHL player to suffer a significant injury in Sochi.

Much has been made about NHL player participation in the Games. The NHL and IIHF, headed by Gary Bettman and Rene Fasel, respectively, have yet to come to any terms regarding NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics. The NHL has bones to pick with the arrangements -- merchandising and broadcast rights, player insurance and the loss of business for two weeks at the peak of their season.

Most notably, though, has been the risk of significant injuries suffered during the games.

"Are the IIHF or IOC going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now?" Islanders GM Garth Snow told Newsday following the announcement that Tavares would miss the rest of the NHL regular season.

"It’s a joke."

Others, especially Flyers owner Ed Snider, have been more than clear in their dislike of sending NHL players to the games.

"I hate [NHL players in the Olympics]," Snider has said. "It's ridiculous. The whole thing is ridiculous."

NHL teams aren't just losing players during the Olympics. They are losing their best players. No team is sending depth guys to the world's top international tournament. When these players go down, there are significant problems back in the NHL.

To wit, the Penguins have lost Martin, one of their top all-around defenders, for perhaps as long as a month. Tavares, third in NHL scoring and the main draw for a struggling Islanders team, is done for the year with a very significant injury.

Detroit lost their best forward in Zetterberg (herniated disk) for as long as eight weeks. Mats Zuccarello is the Rangers' leading scorer and will be out for as long as 3-4 weeks. Neither of those teams are in the clear as far as playoff seeding goes and each has lost a main offensive contributor right in the middle of the stretch run.

The NHL sent billions of dollars in guaranteed player contracts to Sochi, and the injuries taking place are key among the reasons the league isn't sold on 2018.

As far as the Penguins are concerned, the team is once again missing two of its top defensemen. Martin and Kris Letang (blood thinners, out indefinitely) are both likely to be out for the foreseeable future.

Pittsburgh has precious little cap space to deal with and the trade deadline is just 12 days away. Martin is unlikely to receive LTIR designation and so won't help their ability to make deals. Letang is a different story. If the team feels he could be out until the postseason at minimum, they could use his $3.5 million cap hit to help make a move.

For all that, the team isn't out of the woods yet. Only Evgeni Malkin's tournament is done among Penguins Olympians. Brooks Orpik, Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta will face off in tomorrow's bronze medal game while Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz play again Sunday.

There's a chance for two Penguins to wear gold medals at these games, but at this point, it'd be an equal success just to get the team back without further interference to the coming postseason.

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