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Relocation or contraction?

The Phoenix Coyotes know they will definitely still be playing in Arizona next season, but beyond that is still up in the air. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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The Phoenix Coyotes know they will definitely still be playing in Arizona next season, but beyond that is still up in the air. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Still checking in with a hockey mailbag at the beginning of June? Congratulations - you’re officially in too deep! Just kidding. Thanks as always for submitting questions, even if I can’t get to all of them.

Adam, with another team failing in Atlanta and moving to Winnipeg after the new CBA was supposed to fix many of the NHL’s problems, is it likely we could see another lockout after the 2011-2012 season? With Phoenix and the Islanders potentially on the moving blocks (as well with nowhere to go), is contraction a possibility?
Joseph Ierfino, Newmarket, Ont.

Joseph,

It’s an interesting predicament the league finds itself in, that’s for sure. Had Arizona politicians not forked over $25 million to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, that franchise very likely would have moved to Winnipeg instead of the Thrashers.

What would’ve happened to Atlanta then? Some suspect the league would have had to assume control of that franchise, because the Atlanta Spirit ownership group was in no mood to careen through another NHL season hemorrhaging millions like the old Heaven’s Gate movie - and more importantly, there was no other alternative beyond Winnipeg.

Which brings me around to the heart of your question. If the Yotes situation is back to what it was at the end of this season (i.e. with the team on the precipice of moving unless local taxpayers shovel more money into the franchise’s furnace), there really isn’t an ideal location for them to move to. (And I wouldn’t put the Isles in that group - at least until their new arena plans either are finalized or collapse.)

Quebec City won’t have an NHL-caliber rink built for at least a few years. Kansas City has an arena, but nobody who wants to own a team there. Las Vegas and Seattle are different degrees of pipe dream.

Now, does this mean the league will be forced to accept the idea of contracting one or two teams if they can’t carry on? I doubt it. A new collective bargaining agreement isn’t too far from the horizon and if you thought the league fought tooth-and-nail to avoid relocation, you won’t believe how hard they’ll fight to avoid contraction.

Still, if there are no other realistic options, Gary Bettman and the team owners will have no choice but to consider avenues they don’t want to walk. They’ve already had to in returning to Winnipeg.

Adam, when is it time for the New York Islanders to get rid of Garth Snow? It has been five years and after signing Rick DiPietro to a ridiculous contract, shouldn't it be time for a change?
Alan Hetherington, Oshawa, Ont.


Alan,

I’ve been as critical of Snow as anybody, not just for his lack of true on-ice progress (meaning a total inability to get the Isles into the playoffs), but if you accept the fact that team owner Charles Wang is being patient with a group of young players, I think Snow deserves a little more time to produce results.

That said, if the Isles wind up at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference next season, Snow will be the deserved target of criticism. You only get so many kicks at the can in NHL management (unless you’re a perpetual can-kicker like Glen Sather) and Snow is nearing the point where it’s time to put up or shut up.

Hey Adam, Do you think Columbus would be making a smart move if it went after a goaltender this off-season or should they continue to hope Steve Mason will recover his form?
Nolan Tallmadge, Lyndonville, Vt.


Nolan,

As we’ve heard, the Blue Jackets franchise has been losing tens of millions of dollars each year for some time, so I can’t imagine it would be in a position to chase an unrestricted free agent such as Ilya Bryzgalov or Tomas Vokoun. They’ve also got $36 million committed to the salary cap for next season and just 13 players signed, leaving even less chance they’d spend big-time money on a backstopper.

As well, there wouldn’t be many teams willing to step up and take a chance on Mason, who’s scheduled to earn $2.9 million in each of the next two seasons. Jackets GM Scott Howson likely will have to sign a veteran such as Johan Hedberg to push Mason or work with the youngster in an attempt to get his confidence back.

Adam, with many UFAs on the roster, how do you think the Lightning will proceed this off-season?
Mitchell Hirsch, Celebration, Fla.


Mitchell,

The Bolts have more than $36 million in cap room already taken up next season, have just 11 players signed and need to sign restricted free agent Steven Stamkos to a long-term deal - meaning GM Steve Yzerman will have to move with caution to find bargains and retain key components of this year’s group.

I think re-signing D-man Eric Brewer is a must, but he’s coming off a contract that averaged $4.25 million a year. But what do you do with UFAs Simon Gagne, Dwayne Roloson and playoff upstart Sean Bergenheim? The so-called “hometown discount” will have to come into effect to retain them all, I’d guess.

Bottom line: the core they’ve got is phenomenal and that won’t change. Augmenting that core will be Yzerman’s greatest challenge.

Follow Adam's hockey tweets at twitter.com/TheHockeyNews, and his non-hockey observations at twitter.com/ProteauType.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

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