NHL expansion is coming, just don’t hold your breath

GTA Centre Markam

The NHL has gone a full 14 years without adding a single expansion team, which is the longest period without growth since the league ballooned from six to 12 teams in 1967. The business of hockey is stronger than it has ever been and hockey’s global reach has ensured that the league would be less watered down by adding teams than it has in the past.

So, yes, the NHL is ripe for expansion. That’s probably why a published report that the NHL is going to add four teams by 2017 was met with such enthusiasm. To follow some accounts, expansion to Las Vegas is a “done deal” despite the fact there is no ownership group in place yet and the league will have new teams in Las Vegas, Quebec City, Toronto and Seattle by the time it blows out the 100 candles on its birthday cake. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Flyers need help on the blueline, but don’t expect it to come soon

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The state of the Philadelphia Flyers defense core remains a troubling issue. They’ve lacked a true top-two defenseman since Chris Pronger’s career was ended by injury nearly three years ago. They attempted to address that issue in July of 2012 by signing Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber to an expensive offer sheet, but the Predators swiftly matched it.

Former GM Paul Holmgren attempted to bolster the overall blueline depth, acquiring Luke Schenn, Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald via trade and free agency. None of them, however, can fill Pronger’s skates.

The Flyers underwent a front-office shakeup this spring when Ron Hextall took over as GM. Despite Hextall’s stated preference for building from within, rumor-mongers believe the Flyers still seek a stud defenseman, linking them to Winnipeg Jets blueliner Zach Bogosian. Read more

Florida Panthers owner: “the current business model is not sustainable”

Rory Boylen
Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers fans deserve something, anything, better than what they’ve been given in the 20-plus years of the franchise’s existence. This is a team cursed with poor drafting, or poor ownership, or poor coaching, or poor trades, or any combination of those things. Very early in their existence they made the Stanley Cup final. And that was the peak for them.

The thing is, I don’t think this team is as bad as the one that finished 29th last season. The goaltending should be better, which is enough to see some improvement, but the youngsters should also ascend modestly. Some deadwood was shed, although some younger cap deadwood was added (coughDavidBollandcough), but overall, in a weak Eastern Conference where the Toronto Maple Leafs will get some votes as a post-season team, Florida should be in the running for one of the last playoff spots.

It’s enough to give further optimism to a fan base that has been brought up on optimism and false promises without any payoff. But, still, hovering over this franchise is the prospect of relocation.

Currently, the Panthers are seeking a greater share of Broward County’s “bed tax” which are levied on tourists to the area. The hockey team receives 16 percent of that tax right now and is seeking an increase to about one-third, or 33 percent. Those who oppose a greater share going towards the Panthers want the money used on the beaches, which is a greater tourist draw than the arena.

“We estimate that about 30,000 room nights are related to all events at the arena (concerts) annually. We have over 8 million room nights per year sold,” the county’s Nicki Grossman told the Miami Herald earlier this year.

The Panthers, who claim to lose $30 million a year, have a lease in the BB&T Center that runs through 2028 and a debt of about $250 million on the arena. But mayor Barbara Sharief and the county have hired a consultant who is looking into the feasibility of letting the Panthers franchise relocate and get out from under that lease.

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The results of that report are expected to be released in October.

On Saturday, Fox Sports published an interview with Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu who, among other things, was asked about where he saw this franchise in five-to-10 years. He dodged it with the grace of Tim Thomas defending a breakaway, saying his and Vinnie Viola’s desire was to keep the team in Florida, but he added…

“the current business model is not sustainable.”

The optimism about this young team is as thick and pungent as its ever been, what with Aleksander Barkov coming off a strong rookie showing, Jonathan Huberdeau bound for a bounceback season – plus veteran Roberto Luongo back between the pipes for a full season. But it seems the rumors and speculation that this franchise will inevitably move won’t be going away any time soon. Hopefully, for those die-hards who are in Florida, its not some other city enjoying this group in its prime.

So there you go, Panthers fans. Just another day in the summer of a sorry team that had to board up one of its end zones during a game. Keep the faith. Stay strong.

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Editor’s note: an earlier post on the Panthers focused on ownership meeting with one coaching candidate. We’ve been informed that quote was taken out of context and have changed the post.

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The Kevin Hayes sweepstakes are about to heat up

)Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images Sport)

If Kevin Hayes doesn’t sign with Chicago by Aug. 15, he’ll be this summer’s version of Justin Schultz and become a UFA.

A first-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2010, Hayes is a playmaking power forward who had a terrific senior season at Boston College with 27 goals and 65 points in 40 games. He’s not keen to sign with Chicago because the Blackhawks are so deep on the right wing, both at the NHL level and in terms of prospects. He’ll surely get a rookie max deal regardless.

Hayes, 22, probably has a short list of three teams:

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NHL logo rankings No. 12: Florida Panthers

Adam Proteau
FLAMAIN

The Florida Panthers have drastically revamped their team for the coming season. However, in THN’s 2014 NHL logo ranking contest, their logo – which hasn’t changed much at all in their 21-year existence – fared well among our in-house panel of judges. They ranked the Panthers’ current logo 12th-best.

Do you think you could improve on the Panthers’ logo? If so, create one and submit it to editorial@thehockeynews.com. Once our logo rankings conclude, we’ll share them online.

HISTORY OF THE PANTHERS LOGO

(All logos from Chris Creamer’s website.)

The Panthers joined the NHL in 1993 and had their name selected in a fan voting contest. The choice in animal was connected to the Florida panther, an endangered species cougar known to inhabit swamps in South Florida. And their first choice in logo has proven to be such a hit, it’s essentially stayed the same ever since. Read more

Aaron Ekblad hurt in exhibition game, but why was he even playing?

Aaron-Ekblad-draft

The chance to play for Team Canada in an international event is one of the bigger dreams of most hockey players, no matter how good they are. In fact, I can tell you exactly what it means to every single player I’ve asked, because they all have the same response: “Any time you get to put on that jersey, it’s a great honor.”

So I’m not surprised that Florida Panthers prospect Aaron Ekblad wanted to play at Canada’s world junior exhibition camp in Quebec. But why would the Panthers allow the No. 1 overall pick to play in the mini-tournament against the Czechs and Russians?

In speaking with execs from other teams (attempts to reach the Panthers were unsuccessful), they always like having their top prospects put in situations where they can develop, so it’s not crazy that Florida would want their most prominent draft pick to take on a leadership role in the summer and get some reps as he prepares for his first NHL training camp. Unfortunately, injuries are an unpredictable part of the game.

And after seeing their prized prospect get hurt Tuesday night on a hit from Czech defenseman Lukas Klok, the Panthers must be feeling like they rolled snake eyes:

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Hall Monitor: Does Luongo’s trajectory have him making it?

Brian Costello
Columbus Blue Jackets v Florida Panthers

First things first, in the interests of full disclosure, I want to mention a little bet I have regarding Roberto Luongo.

Early in Luongo’s tenure with the Vancouver Canucks, I wagered with THN managing editor Edward Fraser that Luongo would at some point in his career win a Stanley Cup. Fraser didn’t like the cut of Luongo’s jib and took the career disappointment side.

When Luongo was among the top two or three goalies in the game and the Canucks were a powerhouse, the bet was looking good in my favor. But now…forget it. He ain’t winning the Cup. No biggie. The bet was for ice cream and Fraser is now a vegan so it’s a painless loss.

But is Luongo’s career on a trajectory that will lead him to the Hall of Fame? That’s a tricky one.

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Who’s going to win the turtle race for 30th – and gain a franchise player?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes

If Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin are the top three amigos for the 2015 NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames are their top three suitors.

Yesterday, my esteemed boss Jason Kay wrote a blog wondering if the Sabres killed their chances of winning the McDavid sweepstakes by filling out their roster with established veterans Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Andrej Meszaros and Cody McCormick. No need to worry, the Sabres aren’t going anywhere other than 30th place.

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