Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt was suspended 20 games by the NHL for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substances program, the NHL announced on Sunday afternoon.
From NHL Release:
NEW YORK – Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt has been suspended for the first 20 regular-season games of the 2018-19 season, without pay, for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.
While Schmidt will be permitted to participate in team activities during Training Camp, he will not dress or play in any pre-season games.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the suspension is accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment.
The National Hockey League will have no further comment on this matter.
The Golden Knights released the following statement:
The Vegas Golden Knights issued the following statement, today, September 2, regarding the suspension of Nate Schmidt :
“We were notified that the NHL has suspended Nate Schmidt for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. While we respect the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program and are committed to its success, we strongly disagree with the suspension. We firmly believe that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional. Based on our conversations with Nate, analysis from independent medical experts and sworn testimony from the parties involved, we believe it is clear Nate was not able to reasonably ascertain how the substance entered his body.
Nate is an honest person with high moral character and great integrity. We will stand by him and support him during this time.”
The Golden Knights will not be commenting further on the matter.
Nate Schmidt released the following statement:
“I am extremely disappointed to learn that I have been suspended for a violation of the NHL/ NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. The fact that I’m issuing this statement is surreal to me as I have only used supplements provided by my NHL team and I have always been extremely careful about what I put into my body. Throughout my playing career I have been tested numerous times, including twice last season, and I have never before tested positive. It was utterly shocking to be informed that I tested positive for a microscopic amount of a tainted substance. Not only did I not intentionally take a banned substance, I could not have received any performance enhancement benefit from the trace amount that inadvertently got into my system at a level that was far too small to have any effect. This low amount was consistent with environmental contamination that I could not possibly have prevented.”
One of the experts in environmental contamination who testified on my behalf at the Appeal hearing described the amount of the substance found in my system – 7 billionths of a milligram/mL – as the equivalent of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Another expert analyzed a sample of my hair and concluded there was no evidence of intentional use. The Vegas Golden Knights track players’ strength and performance metrics and my results have remained constant over the past year.
While I support having a strong Performance Enhancing Substances Program in place for our sport, it is difficult to accept this suspension. I understand that I will miss these games, but I do not agree with the suspension and I will not accept being labeled a cheater.
I have worked my whole life to become an NHL player, and I’m extremely proud to be a player in the NHL. I have never cut corners in order to achieve this goal. I am grateful for the support of the entire Golden Knights organization and I can’t put into words how disappointed I am that I will not be on the ice at the beginning of the season to help my teammates work towards another Stanley Cup run.
I will make no further comment on this matter at this time.”
Statement from Nate Schmidt’s agent Matt Keator: pic.twitter.com/X3YUCwcXdg
— Katie Strang (@KatieJStrang) September 2, 2018
Schmidt will lose approximately $482,258.28 during his suspension. He may participate in training camp for Vegas but cannot play in any of their preseason games.
Being his first violation of a performance enhancing substance, Schmidt will lose all of his NHL Salary from the effective date of suspension up until 10 days prior to its conclusion.
Then, during the final 10 days of the suspension, Schmidt will be paid 60% of his NHL Salary. pic.twitter.com/vWXfEhtsrL
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) September 2, 2018
Schmidt, 27, tallied a career-high five goals, 31 points, and a +19 rating in 76 games with the Golden Knights last season and three goals, seven points, and a +7 rating in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He also racked up a goal and an even rating in the Stanley Cup Final against the Washington Capitals.
The defenseman can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Schmidt was selected by the Golden Knights as their pick from the Capitals in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft and was awarded a two-year, $4.5 million ($2.25 million AAV) contract in salary arbitration on August 5, 2017.
The Capitals signed Schmidt as a free agent in 2013. In his career as Capital, the defenseman tallied eight goals, 44 points, and a +36 rating in 200 games. In 21 career playoff games with the team, Schmidt recorded a goal, five points, and a +3 rating. He was benched at the start of the 2017 playoffs for the Capitals, but once Karl Alzner got hurt, Schmidt got a chance and seized the opportunity. Alzner was scratched for a few games after he was healthy because Schmidt was playing so well. When Alzner returned, the team kept Schmidt in the lineup and used seven defensemen.
The Capitals tried to make a deal with Vegas to prevent them from taking Schmidt in the expansion draft, but the Golden Knights wanted goaltender Philipp Grubauer and forward Tom Wilson in return.
Schmidt will miss the first time the Capitals and the Golden Knights meet since the Capitals beat the Knights in five games in the Stanley Cup Final on October 10. He is eligible to return to the Golden Knights’ lineup on November 18.
By Harrison Brown