But then, after the claim, word came out that Betts had an injury. We all immediately thought it was his shoulder, but as it turns out, he's just been plagued by some relatively minor lower-body injury. Via the Montreal Gazette two days ago:
"The shoulder's just fine," said Betts. "I have a lowerbody injury and the club decided that they wanted to check things out. If it as my decision, I'd be playing but I respect what they're doing and I hope that I'll be in the lineup in Winnipeg."
He's not going to be playing today in Winnipeg, and it appears that he could be on his way back to Philadelphia if a TSN Radio report from Montreal is to be believed.
I have it on good authority that the
#Habs have sent Blair Betts back to Philly because he did not pass his physical. ... Betts info comes from two different sources, both of whom mentioned Betts not passing medical. ... One source has Betts already headed back to Philly from Montreal.
UPDATE: NHL has confirmed the news. Betts is a Flyer again. Press release after the jump.
Teams can indeed cancel waiver claims if a player fails a physical. Here's the relevant section of the CBA:
13.20 (a) The Club acquiring a Player by Waiver claim shall take an Assignment of the Player's SPC. Nevertheless, if the Commissioner determines that a Player acquired by Waiver claim is not physically fit at the time the claim is made, the Club making the claim may refuse to take an Assignment of such Player's SPC and the request for Waivers shall be canceled.
The Commissioner determines, but we're guessing that since he's not a doctor, that's just based off of the results of his physical. (Although he probably is smug enough to think that he can be a doctor.)
We wonder what this says about the injury. If it was really just a minor lower-body injury, the Canadiens would probably just hold onto him instead of sending him back to the Flyers. And if he comes back to the Flyers injured, well... that's not good.
We disagree with the decision to waive a healthy Betts in order to fit a rookie into the lineup (although if Sean Couturier can keep it up over a full season, it wouldn't be so bad) -- or, even worse, a tough guy or a pest -- but if Betts isn't healthy and it's something serious, there's no value there at all.
In essence, he'd just be taking up a contract spot, and Paul Holmgren probably should have realized that this would happen if he knew Betts was injured in the first place. Now he's in a situation where if he wants to keep Couturier around past beyond October, he's going to have to get rid of a contract.
There are options, but this is the folly of painting yourself into a corner with the contract limit and the salary cap and everything else. It gets you into messes like this, and you always need to find a creative way to get out of it.
We'll see what the hell happens next, but for now, Betts is a Flyer again. An injured Flyer that knows his organization doesn't really want him.
Here's the NHL press release:
NEW YORK (October 9, 2011) -- Forward Blair Betts, who was claimed on waivers by the Montreal Canadiens from the Philadelphia Flyers on October 5, has been returned to the Flyers, per NHL By-Law 11.8 (a), the National Hockey League announced today.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman rendered the decision after reviewing submissions from both Clubs. By-Law 11.8 (a) states: "The Member Club acquiring a player by waiver claim shall take an assignment of the player's contract. Nevertheless, if the Commissioner determines that a player acquired by waiver claim is not physically fit at the time the claim is made, the Member Club making the claim may refuse to take an assignment of such player's contract and the request for waivers shall be cancelled."
In reaching his decision, Commissioner Bettman stated: "While it is clear that both clubs have acted in good faith in this unique situation (i.e. a waiver claim), I am not prepared to dispute the conclusion of the Montreal Club doctors that Mr. Betts was physically unfit to play at the time of the claim. Therefore, it is my decision that, per League By-Laws, the appropriate resolution to this matter is to restore the parties to the position they were in prior to the waiver claim on Oct. 5."