National Hockey League
COLORADO AVALANCHE-Signed D Jordan Leopold and F David Jones to a two-year contracts and D Kurt Sauer and D Jeff Finger to one-year contracts.
National Hockey League
COLORADO AVALANCHE-Signed D Jordan Leopold and F David Jones to a two-year contracts and D Kurt Sauer and D Jeff Finger to one-year contracts.
Chris Hansen’s desire to build an arena in Seattle has led to a new proposal that would see his group stay away from public funds, and if the proposal goes through, there’s a chance we could see an NHL-ready building in Washington State.
The NHL’s 31st franchise in Las Vegas doesn’t even officially have a name and already there could be reason to start wondering about the potential for the league to add another franchise in the future. And no, the speculation isn’t about a new team in Quebec City.
For the better part of the past several years, there has been talk about the potential for a new arena in Seattle, but King 5 News’ Chris Daniels reported Tuesday that businessman Chris Hansen, who has been at the forefront of the drive for an arena in Seattle’s SoDo area, has made an offer that could be too good for the city to pass up.
At a time when cities and taxpayers are often on the hook for millions of dollars when new arenas are built, Hansen and his group are proposing that they privately fund the construction of the new arena at “no cost to the City or the County.” That’s right: the owners of the building are proposing they go out of pocket to get the arena built.
There are a few catches, though. In order for the deal to go through, Hansen and Co. are asking that a portion of Occidental Avenue, which is located near the proposed site for the arena, be vacated, and that tax credits are given, “just as similar waivers have been granted for the other sports venues.”
Of course, none of this is to say that the arena deal is now automatic, nor does it absolutely mean the NHL will be heading to Seattle. In fact, Hansen’s letter to council makes several references to the NBA, and it’s clear the intention is to have the building erected with the desire to return professional basketball to the city. After all, it was the NBA’s TV deal that played into the group’s proposal to privately fund the building.
In the letter, Hansen and Co. outline that the “economic landscape has changed” since the group and the city first entered into a memorandum of understanding about a potential arena. The group outlines the passing of the recession, a “new economic cycle,” declining interest rates and, most importantly, that the NBA’s TV contract has created “more financial certainty in the industry.” The group goes further, though.
“Our goal has always been to return the NBA to Seattle and to build a new arena to make that possible,” the letter, via King 5 News, reads. “Our partnership with the City and County started five years ago and was based on a recognition that private financing of a new arena in the prevailing economic conditions was not economically feasible. The goal of this partnership was to build the Arena and bring an NBA team to Seattle.”
And while the letter may not make mention of the NHL, Seattle mayor Ed Murray did in his statement regarding the proposal. According to Daniels, Murray said the proposal will be reviewed, and added that council shares “the goal of bringing the NBA and NHL to Seattle.”
Even if the proposal is accepted, it doesn’t mean an NHL expansion team heading to Seattle is a given. However, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who also serves as chairman of the board of governors, made it clear he was interested in the opportunity for a team in Seattle as the league went over expansion bids in October 2015.
“I’d love to see us in the West to be up in Seattle,” Jacobs told ESPN’s Joe McDonald in October 2015. “Seattle’s a natural, and I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building. There are conditions and circumstances in each one of these that we have to take into consideration.”
However, more recent comments by Jacobs might point towards the NHL waiting a long while before adding another team. Earlier this month, Jacobs told CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty he didn’t believe there was much desire for further expansion at this time and that the “league is looking for more stability.”
That, along with the time it takes to build an arena, could mean we’re still years away from seeing an expansion team in Seattle. But if Hansen’s proposal goes through, it becomes a much more viable option as a location for a possible 32nd team.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Get 10 issues of The Hockey News magazine for just $15.99!
Less than a year ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning were surrounded by uncertainty and controversy. But thanks to great leadership, it's blue skies for this team in 2016-17.
The last time the Tampa Bay Lightning played in the Center of the Hockey Universe™, there was a fair bit of drama surrounding them. It was late March and their star player, one of the most dynamic scorers of his generation, was on the cusp of becoming an unrestricted free agent and leaving for nothing. And their top prospect was toiling in the minors after leaving the team and demanding a trade.
The fact that the Lightning played so well despite the chaos that surrounded them is a testament to the strength of the franchise. And the fact they were able to do it and still get to the Eastern Conference final last season made them better and stronger. So when they came into Toronto Tuesday with a 4-1-0 record and all kinds of accolades following them, there was almost no drama in their wake. As we all know, Steven Stamkos decided to stay and take an eight-year deal for less money than he would have earned on the open market and the prodigal son, Jonathan Drouin, found his way back into the fold, to the point where he wants to sign an extension with the Lightning and be there for a long, long time.
“Yeah, the boring Tampa Bay Lightning,” joked Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “It’s rare.”
A team that many people expect to be at or near the top of the NHL standings this season has already made it to the top of a pretty prestigious list. ESPN The Magazine recently ranked the Lightning the No. 1 franchise among the 122 in North American professional sports in its Ultimate Standings, which it bases its rankings on fan surveys and financial analysis in terms of how it rewards its fans for the time, money and emotion they invest in the team. And of course, it all starts at the top. Seven years ago, Jeff Vinik purchased the team and the arena for less money than he spent to buy the hotel across the street from the rink. Since then, he has transformed the Lightning into the model franchise in terms of community involvement and engagement, and it has helped that the Lightning have played 43 playoff games the past two years and are one of the league’s top contenders. And in Steve Yzerman, they simply have one of the best GMs in the game, one who simply does not blink when it comes to contract negotiations.
“It was tough and I know it weighed on (Stamkos),” Cooper said. “And as much as we were sitting here saying, ‘Oh, it’s just white noise, blow it off, don’t worry about it,’ for sure it had an impact on him.”
The good thing now, though, is it’s just all about hockey for these guys. Stamkos signed, went to the World Cup and was productive and hit the ground running this season. Combine that with the fact that the Lightning has an opportunity to do something special this season and that it has a bright future and it’s a good time to be a part of this organization.
“It’s one of the top places to play in the NHL for sure, and it’s not just because of the great weather,” Stamkos said. “You look at the team we’ve been able to assemble and the guys that are willing to sign on and stay with this core bunch of guys because of the talent that we have and the runs we have made and the experience we’ve gained and we want to see that to the end. That’s pretty rare in today’s sports that guys want to stick together and whether it’s take a little less money or in Kuch’s (Nikita Kucherov) case take a bridge deal, that’s pretty special from an organizational standpoint and a player’s standpoint, to be part of a group that wants to be together.”
And nobody knows about that better than Stamkos, who was reportedly offered $10 million a year to go to Buffalo, which would have paid him $2 million more for one fewer year than the contract he signed with Tampa. Toronto was also in the mix and intrigued him, but in the end, he decided to stay where he would be most happy and have the best chance to win a championship. The questions followed him and Yzerman all last season, but to their credit, neither allowed them to affect his performance.
“There really wasn’t that much drama around here, to be honest with you,” said veteran winger Brian Boyle. “One guy might have felt it, but the rest of us didn’t.”
But almost nobody in the organization was free of it. There were questions about Cooper and his handling of players in light of Drouin’s departure and Stamkos’ unwillingness to sign early. When Cooper signed a contract extension last season, it seemed to indicate that the organization had backed their coach and drawn a line in the sand with some of the players. But it turns out they all ended up on the same page and the organization is stronger for it.
“I take some consolation in the fact that guys don’t think you stink,” Cooper said, “and if they do, they don’t say that publicly.”
Are things perfect for the Lightning? No, because they’re not for anybody. This organization is going to have to figure out what to do with goalie Ben Bishop and in addition to Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat will be restricted free agents at the end of this season. And there’s only so much cap room to go around. But the Lightning’s experience with these things and a steady hand at the rudder give you the impression they will persevere through it.
“It’s all about hockey now,” Cooper said.
Steven Stamkos feels the best he has in several seasons, and it's already showing on the scoresheet. Can he surge back into the NHL's elite goal-scoring ranks?
Boos rained down on Steven Stamkos the moment he touched the puck Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Yet there’s a decent chance he didn’t hear them. When you’re as happy as he is right now, negative noise gets reduced to a dull murmur, easy to ignore.
That’s what Stamkos appeared to be doing mere seconds after that first tongue-lashing from the Toronto faithful. He deked in on goalie Frederik Andersen, had the puck poked away by blueliner Matt Hunwick and watched it bounce in. It was the first of two goals, the second more of a no-doubter, coming on a laser of a one-timer. Stamkos racked up four points, fuelling a 7-3 Tampa victory.
Stamkos, who hails from just north of the Big Smoke, may or may not have been close to signing with the Leafs as a free agent this summer. He may or may not have almost changed his playing address to the ACC. Whether it was close to happening or not no longer matters. He chose to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning, inking an eight-year, $68-million deal. And on Tuesday his performance buried the team many thought he’d join.
“You give the guy chances like he had tonight, and he’s going to score a bunch of those,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I was really happy for him, because I’m sure it was a tough decision for him. Plus this is his hometown. Fans pay a ticket, they’re entitled to do what they want, but 'Stam' was a great son to Toronto.”
Stamkos’ signing keyed a real coup of an off-season for Tampa GM Steve Yzerman, who signed defenseman Victor Hedman long-term and locked up right winger Nikita Kucherov on a bridge contract. At least for now, Yzerman kept the band together, and his team is the NHL’s leading Stanley Cup contender.
Stamkos said after Tuesday’s game the team’s vibe has changed for the better. The players are having fun again. They know Stamkos is safely their captain for the next eight seasons. Kucherov is staying put. Heck, even Jonathan Drouin’s trade request is rescinded. And the Lightning’s collective mood has shifted from stormy to sunny.
That applies to Stamkos internally and externally. Over the past season he dealt with the constant contract rumors, lingering questions about his health since breaking his leg in 2013 and, lastly, a major blood clot scare that cost him all but one playoff game. It’s all behind him now. Is this the best he’s felt to start a season in years?
“Yeah,” he said, “coming off the leg injury and what happened at the end of last year. It helped playing in the World Cup, getting some games under your belt and feeling confident. And obviously this year too, with no distractions, just coming in with a clear mind, it all helps toward having fun and being confident. I definitely feel that way right now.”
It appears ‘Peak Stamkos’ showed up to start 2016-17. After his statistical explosion Tuesday, he has five goals and nine points through six games. The five goals equal his career high for the six-game mark of a season. That has to excite Tampa fans given Stamkos’ recent career trends. His goals per game have declined in consecutive seasons, from 0.68 to 0.52 to 0.47. His points per game have slipped three straight years, from 1.08 to 0.88 to 0.83. The natural question to ask was whether Stamkos was merely beginning a decline as he reached his mid-20s. He ripped a career-best 60 goals in 2011-12 at 21 years old. Of the 39 60-goal seasons in NHL history, 26 came from players 25 or younger. That’s two-thirds. Ten came from players 22 or younger. The odds of Stammer matching his best campaign are slim. But is it fair to surmise he’s done as an elite scorer after slipping to just 36 goals in 2015-16?
Not yet. Stamkos’ sizzling start to 2016-17 supports his own theory he’s back to his best self, healthier than he has been in years and free of the mental albatross of contract rumors. Cooper sees a promising side effect, too.
“The other thing is, he’s shooting the puck,” Cooper said. “When someone of his caliber keeps shooting pucks, good things are going to happen, and that’s what’s happening right now.”
Cooper isn’t just tossing out approximations. Stamkos through six games averages a whopping 3.83 shots per contest. It’s obviously a small sample size, but 3.83 would be a career-best rate. We’re clearly seeing a rejuvenated No. 91.
So while Stammer likely never cracks 60 goals again, he’s not done contending for the Rocket Richard Trophy. Four years ago, another dominant goal scorer appeared to be exiting his prime. He’d slipped into the 30-goal bracket two straight years. He couldn’t get on the same page as his coaches. He turned 27 before 2012-13 began, and plenty of ink was spilled with stories asking what was wrong with him.
That player: Alex Ovechkin, who has since led the NHL in goals four straight seasons. Stamkos is a year younger than the “washed up” Ovie was four years ago and feels better than ever. We may thus look back on 2016-17 as the year Stamkos rejoined the sport’s elite.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin
Anders Lindback is headed to the AHL, and the KIngs' two NHL goalies are still on the shelf so they may try to acquire a proven starter.
The Los Angeles Kings made a short-term move to boost their injury-plagued goaltending, signing Anders Lindback to a professional tryout offer. The 28-year-old Lindback has some NHL experience, but for now, he joins their AHL affiliate.
Backup Jeff Zatkoff is expected to be sidelined for only a week with a lower-body injury. Starter Jonathan Quick, however, could be out for up to three months. Meanwhile, some pundits continue to speculate over who the Kings could bring in via trade as a short-term replacement for Quick.
Prior to the Kings signing Lindback, Sportsnet's Luke Fox listed Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec, Anaheim's Jonathan Bernier, Florida's Reto Berra, Pittsburgh's Mike Condon, the New York Islanders' Thomas Greiss and Philadelphia's Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth as possible trade targets.
Other pundits previously linked Pavelec, Bernier, Berra, Condon and Greiss to the Kings. The cap hits of Bernier ($4.15 million) and Pavelec ($3.9 million) means the cap-strapped Kings are unlikely to pursue them. Berra ($1.45 million), Condon ($575,000) and Greiss ($1.5 million) are more affordable options.
Mason and Neuvirth, however, are new additions to this guessing game. Fox believes Mason's name appears in trade chatter owing to his $4.1-million cap hit. Like Bernier and Pavelec, his salary isn't a good fit for the Kings. Neuvirth ($1.6 million) is more affordable, but like Mason, he's not off to a good start.
When asked by a reader which goalie the Flyers could trade, Philly.com's Sam Carchidi replied Neuvirth for the right price. However, he also points out Flyers GM Ron Hextall prefers carrying two strong goalies on his roster. If Neuvirth and Mason fail to snap out of their collective early-season funk, Hextall might consider moving one of them.
NO SIGN OF END TO JETS-TROUBA STANDOFF
With November fast approaching, there's no sign of an end to the standoff between the Winnipeg Jets and restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba. The 22-year-old remains at home in Michigan hoping Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff honors his trade request.
Trouba could be cooling his heels for a while. TSN's Bob McKenzie last week said there's no indication the young rearguard is close to being dealt. His colleague Pierre LeBrun reports Cheveldayoff's asking price is a young, top-four defenseman with a left-handed shot. He claims the Jets GM can afford to be patient, as he's got the full backing of team ownership.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins were linked to Trouba in the rumor mill. However, ESPN.com's Craig Custance doubts the Wings can land him, suggesting Anaheim's Cam Fowler as a better target. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty doesn't see Trouba as a fit with the Bruins.
Trouba and the Jets can afford to engage in a staredown for now. But as the Dec. 1 deadline for re-signing restricted free agents nears, one of them could blink. Expect the conjecture over Trouba's future to increase by mid-November.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.