Shane Pinto Gambled Away 41 Games of His Career, What Does This Mean for the Ottawa Senators?

Most of the talk regarding Shane Pinto was about his contract situation given that he is a restricted free agent with the Ottawa Senators. A lot of questions were about why he hasn’t gotten a new contract.

This situation may have provided some clarity on that front.

Pinto has been handed a 41-game suspension by the NHL for “activities related to sports wagering,” per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Because of the suspension, the Senators have ended contract negotiations with him and have “rescinded all previous offers,” forcing him to sign a qualifying offer—a one-year, $874,125 deal.

While Pinto Does Not Have a Contract, He’s Still Eligible to Play This Season

While most have speculated that the clock on Pinto’s suspension cannot start until he is under contract on an active roster, his suspension has been applied retroactively to the Senators’ first game of the season, and he does not need to sign a contract with Ottawa to begin his suspension.

He will be eligible for the team’s 42nd game of the season, on January 21st against the Philadelphia Flyers, assuming he signs a contract, so he will be eligible for this NHL season even if he does not sign a contract before the normal December 1st signing deadline for restricted free agents.

Of note in the findings of the investigation that was launched over the summer in Pinto’s behavior was that it did not intensify until the past few weeks when a hearing was held with the league, and Friedman added that Pinto did not request a trade despite the ongoing contract negotiations because “he appreciates the organization’s secrecy about the investigation.” Friedman also noted that even though the league did not find that Pinto wagered on NHL games, a March 2022 memo from the league states that Gary Bettman is authorized to:

“Discipline individuals determined to have engaged in improper gambling activities in any or all of the following respects: expulsion or suspension [for] a definite or indefinite period; cancelling any contract that such individual may have; and/or by imposing a fine. The League will act swiftly and aggressively in penalizing any League or Club personnel determined to have engaged in acts in violation of the NHL Gambling Policy.”

A Lack of Clarity on the Suspension Announcement

This is the first ever suspension in NHL history related to sports gambling. Usually, players suspended without pay for off-ice conduct will not have their cap hits count against the salary cap, meaning that Pinto’s likely cap hit of $874,125 will not be on the books until after the suspension has been served.

However, there is lack of clarity on the suspension. While the NHL said that Pinto did not bet on NHL games, there was no mention of the specifics as the league “considers this matter closed, absent the emergence of new information and will have no further comment.”

It’s understandable that NHL players are not allowed to bet on their own games, even in the era where sports betting is legal. But no other player has been flagged for such activity in the NHL up until this point. And there is no way to tell whether the time really matches the violation, especially when on-ice incidents such as Rasmus Andersson elbowing and injuring Patrik Laine are punished less than off-ice events like Pinto’s sports wagering.

Personal responsibility should be taken into consideration, and the promotion of gambling advertisements can be excessive at times. But there is no line that is anywhere close to being drawn between suiting up for an NHL game wearing a helmet that has a gambling site logo and what Pinto did.

The Ottawa Senators Have the Leverage on Contract Negotiations

Upon notice of this suspension, the Ottawa Senators did not have any incentive to make a move or carry on with the negotiations. They now have the leverage in their favor, meaning that the projected cap hit will actually pay Pinto $437,062.50 for the 41 games he will play in his half-season.

Pinto is coming off a 2022-23 season where he had 20 goals and 15 assists for 35 points, averaging nearly 16 minutes per game and played mostly on the second line as Josh Norris missed the entirety of last season with a shoulder injury that needed surgery. Pinto has also dealt with a shoulder injury during his development, which had him sidelined for most of 2021-22.

Heading into the season, it was expected that he would center the third line with the help of Dominik Kubalík and either one of Mathieu Joseph or Ridly Greig. But once again, the Senators have deviated from expectations as they could not get a new deal with Pinto because of the cap constraints. Worsening matters are injuries to two of their key defensemen, Erik Brännström and top defender Thomas Chabot.

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