Las Vegas Golden Knights’ Nate Schmidt dealt 20-game suspension

Some of the lustre has been taken off the Vegas Golden Knights’ successful inaugural NHL season as defenceman Nate Schmidt has been banned for the first 20 games of the upcoming 2018/19 campaign. The 27-year-old found out the news on September 2nd when the league announced he had failed a drug test and violated the current NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. However, Schmidt doesn’t appear to be very happy with the news and stressed to the media that he isn’t a cheater.

The blue-liner released a statement which said he’s very disappointed with the ban. He stated that he’s been tested several times during his career and twice in the 2017/18 season and this is the first time he’s failed. Schmidt said he was shocked to hear of the result, but said only a microscopic amount of the unnamed banned substance was found in his system. He added that the small amount of the substance found in his body could have no way enhanced his performance on the ice.

Schmidt went on to say he didn’t intentionally place anything in his body and this should be taken into consideration due to the minuscule amount of the substance that showed up on the test. The defenceman remarked that just seven billionths of a milligram of the substance was found in his system and that could be compared to a grain of sand on Miami Beach. However, since the NHL’s policy states that any amount of a performance-enhancing drug in a player’s bloodstream is against the rules he was handed the suspension.

Most NHL players have abided by the program as Schmidt is just the first player to be suspended for testing positive since the 2015/16 season. The last players to be banned were Shawn Horcoff of the Anaheim Ducks and Jarred Tinordi of the Arizona Coyotes when they were both nailed with 20-game bans. Also, two former Toronto Marlies players, Carter Ashton and Brad Ross, were suspended for 20 games by the American Hockey League a year earlier.

Schmidt, who scored a career-high five goals and 31 assists for 36 points last season, said he supports the NHL’s drug program, but still doesn’t agree with the ruling as he never knowingly or intentionally tried to gain an advantage. Predictably, the Golden Knights support Schmidt’s position and also released a statement which said he’s honest and possesses great integrity and moral character. The club said Schmidt may have failed his test, but he knew nothing about the substance found in his system.

No matter how the drug entered his system though, the fact is it was found in his bloodstream and the league had no choice but to suspend him. Schmidt will be allowed to attend the Golden Knights’ training camp in September, but won’t be able to participate in any preseason games. His absence will definitely be felt by the team as Schmidt was the second highest-scoring blue-liner on the squad last season and was generally considered the team’s number-one defenceman. He led the team in minutes per game at 22:14 and was a key part of the penalty-killing and power play units.

He also led the club in ice time during the playoffs and scored three goals and four assists in 20 postseason outings to lead Vegas to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they fell in five games to the Washington Capitals. Schmidt, who’s entering the final season of a two-year contract, will have to forfeit his pay during the suspension and since he’s making $2.3 million in 2018/19 it’s estimated it will cost him approximately $450,000. Schmidt will be eligible return to the Golden Knights’ lineup on November 18th when the team plays in Edmonton against the Oilers.

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