tocchet-rick-cp-070525

Rick Tocchet is seeking to resume his coaching duties with the Coyotes. ((Mel Evans/Associated Press))

Rick Tocchet reportedly met Tuesday with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, prompting speculation that he may soon be reinstated.

Tocchet, an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, has been on a leave of absence since Feb. 8, 2006, amid accusations that he and two men were operating an illegal sports gambling ring in the United States.

New Jersey's Organized Crime Bureau launched an investigation, dubbed Operation Slapshot, into the ring in October 2005 after learning a state trooper might be involved.

Authorities claimed the ring handled $1.7 million US in wagers in the 40 days leading up to charges being filed.

Tocchet agreed May 25 to a plea bargain on counts of promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling, and was sentenced to two years probation on Aug. 17.

Tocchet's accomplices were: James Harney, a N.J. state trooper sentenced to five years in jail and told to forfeit his badge; and James Ulmer, a medical supply salesman, who received two years probation and was ordered to return $45,000 US in gambling
proceeds and pay back taxes on $52,000 US in winnings.

Bettman hired lawyer Robert Cleary, best known for prosecuting unabomber Ted Kaczynski, to handle a league investigation into Tocchet's involvement.

A source claimed Tuesday that Bettman has received Cleary's final report, possibly clearing the way for Tocchet to resume his coaching duties.

Tocchet, 43, played 18 seasons in the NHL, posting 440 goals and 952 points with 2,970 penalty minutes in 1,144 games for the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Coyotes.

The Scarborough, Ont., native was drafted in the sixth round (121st overall) by Philadelphia in 1983.

Tocchet has served as an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche and Coyotes since retiring as an active player (2001-02).

With files from the Associated Press