So this is really happening. The NHL is rolling the dice on Las Vegas. It’s gambling on Sin City, placing its bet, doubling down, upping the ante, raising the stakes, going all in, looking to hit the jackpot, hoping not to crap out. There, we got that out of the way. That pretty much covers the betting analogies, so let’s never see them again for the next hundred years.
With its announcement that the league intends to expand to 31 teams by granting an expansion franchise to Las Vegas, the NHL finally exposed its worst kept secret. Pundits had been professing this was a slam dunk for the better part of the past 18 months, so there was no sense of surprise when Vegas franchise owner Bill Foley, who told reporters that he played “shiny hockey” on a pond when he was a kid when his father was stationed in Ottawa, was invited into the fold.
The Los Angeles Kings made a big splash last off-season when they acquired Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins for Martin Jones, Colin Miller and a first-round pick, but it looks like Lucic’s tenure as a King will be one-and-done.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBruin reported Wednesday afternoon that Lucic, 28, has decided to head to free agency come July 1. Not long after LeBrun’s initial report, he added that Kings GM Dean Lombardi confirmed Los Angeles has not been able to come to terms with the hulking winger and that Lucic and his agents have officially been given the go-ahead to begin talking to the league’s 29 other teams about a potential free agent deal.
By hitting the open market, Lucic is almost certain to be one of the two or three highest-paid players in the current free agent crop. It’s a mortal lock that Steven Stamkos will sign the biggest deal of any free agent, but Lucic, along with Kyle Okposo and David Backes, is in a good position to earn himself a huge payday. Read more
No. What ever happened to that Maple Leafs rebuild?
By Ken Campbell
One of the first things that came out of Mike Babcock’s mouth after he was hired to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer was, “If you think there’s no pain coming, there’s pain coming. The path we’re taking has to be different. There’s no chance for a quick fixer here.”
Well, apparently that pain threshold isn’t quite as steely and strong as we all thought. That path that was supposed to be so different? Well, accelerating rebuilds is a path so well worn in Toronto that the organization still has too look up to see ground level. And no quick fixer? How’s that working out? Well, the first chance the Maple Leafs had, they went out and got a quick fixer.
Whatever happened to that rebuild that was supposed to take place in the Center of the Hockey Universe™? Well, it went out the window when the Leafs traded two draft picks in exchange for goalie Frederik Andersen, then handed him a five-year contract worth $27 million. It’s a move that makes no sense on so many levels for a team that says it’s committed to rebuilding properly.
The last time Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price saw NHL action was Nov. 25. The next time he sees a similar level of competition, he’ll be facing off against some of the world’s top talent at the best-on-best World Cup of Hockey.
Price, 28, had a troubling 2015-16 season that saw him able to suit up for only 12 games all campaign and plagued by injuries. Before the first month of the season was through, Price had suffered his first lower-body injury of the season, and less than a week after his mid-November return, Price was back on the shelf, this time for good with what was later revealed to be an MCL sprain.
“The MCL provides support to the inside of the knee and is essential for stability and knee function,” Dr. Vincent Lacroix, the Canadiens’ head physician, said at the time Price was shelved for the year. “Acute, isolated MCL injuries are managed without surgery. Rehabilitation treatments lead to full functional recovery. The recovery process can be long in the case of an elite netminder such as Carey, due to the high demand placed on this anatomical structure by modern goaltending techniques.”
However, even with the injury, Price was named to Canada’s initial 16-man World Cup roster and Canadian GM Doug Armstrong said the team’s understanding was that Price would be healthy before the tournament began. Appearing on TSN’s That’s Hockey Tuesday, Price confirmed not only that he would be healthy, but that he already is. Read more
Wednesday is reportedly the day the NHL will confirm what we’ve all expected for months: The league is expanding to Las Vegas, becoming the first major pro sports team to take up residence in the city.
That will no doubt come as a relief to hockey fans in Vegas, since history has shown that new NHL teams have a way of falling through. The league’s expansion era began in 1967, and has seen the league continue to grow ever since. But it’s history of near-misses dates back even further, and includes some cases where a new team seemed to be all but a sure thing.
So today, as we await the official arrival of Las Vegas to the NHL family, let’s look back on some of the times when the league seemed headed to a new home, only to have it fall through.
As the 2016 NHL draft draws near, trade activity is picking up. On Monday, the Anaheim Ducks shipped goaltender Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs for two draft picks, the New York Rangers dealt defenseman Keith Yandle‘s rights to the Florida Panthers, while the Nashville Predators dealt the rights of college prospect Jimmy Vesey to the Buffalo Sabres.
The Panthers acquisition of Yandle’s rights makes sense if Brian Campbell departs via free agency on July 1. The Miami Herald’s George Richards reports Panthers GM Tom Rowe expects Campbell, 37, to test the market.
It also douses recent trade speculation involving Panthers blueliner Dmitry Kulikov. The Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov claims the Panthers frequently get inquiries about the 24-year-old blueliner but he’s not on the trade block.
The American roster is going to need an adjustment before September’s World Cup after it was announced Tuesday that Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ryan Callahan will be forced to miss the tournament.
Callahan, 31, underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a labral tear in his right hip, and the expected recovery time for the surgery is five months, meaning Callahan isn’t expected to return to action until November, at the earliest. In all likelihood, the veteran winger could be out until at least December and maybe longer depending on what type of time is needed to get him back up to game speed before his return. All that is to say that not only have the Lightning lost a piece of their roster, but so has USA’s World Cup squad.
Luckily, there are still months to go before the tournament, and it’s not as if USA was at the bottom of the barrel when they were picking Callahan for their World Cup team. There are a number of players who could replace Callahan on the roster, and here are five of the top candidates: Read more
Defenseman Alex Goligoski, who won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, is now officially a member of the Arizona Coyotes. The veteran defenseman had his rights traded from Dallas for a fifth-round pick in 2016 last week and the Coyotes wasted no time in locking him down with a long-term contract.
For the new brain trust in Arizona, this is a big win.