Okay, let's make this very clear: the NHL's choice is to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. That's what the league wants.
Two different league governors say that at the December board meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif., they were told the chances are "50-50" the team stays put.
But as of Sunday, the NHL has the legal right to begin negotiating with other cities.
Does it plan to do that? "Not in the short term," said one source.
If it becomes necessary to look elsewhere, the problem is that there is no Winnipeg scenario in 2012. When the Thrashers collapsed, the Manitoba capital was 100 per cent prepared with excellent ownership, a ready-to-go arena and a rabid fan base. None of this year's potential suitors can brag they possess all those things.
There are four cities on the league's radar.
Las Vegas is a total longshot, although I've heard from several people that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would love to go there. (Me too, although I'd demand a higher per diem). Kansas City has a beautiful building and strong support from the St. Louis Blues. But there are questions about ownership and the fan base (with apologies to long-time local supporter Paul McGannon, who will undoubtedly unleash a torrent of emails detailing otherwise).
That leaves Quebec City and Seattle.
Look, if it's one or the other, Quebec City, obviously, makes more sense. But step back for a second and imagine you run the NHL. Ask yourself this question: "If we do need to relocate the Coyotes, how are we going to make the most money?"
A. Move the Coyotes to Quebec City
B. Move the Coyotes to Seattle, eventually expand to Quebec City
C. Move the Coyotes to Seattle, eventually expand to Quebec City AND that rink being built just outside Toronto
D. I was told there would be no math
Moving the Thrashers to Winnipeg carried a $170-million US price tag -- $110 million for the franchise and a $60 million relocation fee. For the sake of argument, let's assume the Coyotes will cost the same. So if you answer "A" -- $170 million is your figure.
Scenario "B" results in more cash because two payments are made. And you'd have to think that if Quebec City gets an expansion team, the fee will be higher than the purchase price of the Coyotes, especially if the NHL can create some kind of bidding war for the right to own the team there.
Then, there's scenario "C". What does Seattle relocation + Quebec City expansion + Toronto expansion equal? A billion dollars. And that might be conservative.
Now you understand why Seattle is a possibility. And it all comes down to the arena.
Three years ago, the NBA left Washington for Oklahoma. League commissioner David Stern didn't handle that one very well and was roasted (if you have the time and the inclination, Sonicsgate is an impressive documentary detailing what happened). It is believed Stern would like to return and erase this unpleasant memory.
Key Arena, where the SuperSonics played prior to their demise, was the major area of conflict. Ownership and the NBA felt it was outdated. But they could not come to an agreement with the city for a new facility. There is cautious optimism this can now be resolved (For more details, check out this Seattle Times story).
Those of you who are familiar with Key know that it is inhospitable for the NHL. The footprint is too small, featuring the same issues the Coyotes faced before the beautiful Glendale arena was built. They played at America West Arena, home of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, and there were many obstructed seats.
Don Levin, owner of the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves, wants this franchise. And the NHL likes him.
It makes sense for a basketball and a hockey team to share an arena. However, word is that talks between Levin and the potential NBA ownership group about a facility partnership recently fell apart.
Can it be repaired? "These things are off and on and then on, etc. Hard to say if it is dead forever," said one source.
Using Seattle for relocation, if necessary, keeps the new conference setup as proposed with 16 teams in the West and 14 in the East. That means easier travel for Western teams and keeps Quebec/Toronto open for expansion.
That's why Seattle's a contender.
(The above section is written with apologies to Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, who hates when the team's future becomes a distraction)
1. The NHL will be adding a new HD camera to all of its nets. It will record the goal-line area, another weapon in the fight against disputed scores. It's been tested over the last little while, with the NHL Winter Classic being its first "official" game. The picture looks sharp. Hopefully, it helps.
2. Heard from multiple sources that the NHL/NHLPA's battle over the $25 million the City of Glendale pays to help run the Coyotes will be settled without arbitration. Neither side wants to risk losing this case. It's taking time while the lawyers duel over language.
3. There are a lot of people who have complimentary things to say about Krys Barch. Barch will have a hearing today about the alleged slur directed at PK Subban. The belief is he's going to argue his words were misinterpreted. That's important because several sources indicate linesman Darren Gibbs is adamant about what he heard.
4. You guys love trade talk, so here's some: If you've got defencemen to trade, you are in position A. NHL general managers may sell their children for blue-line depth. One defenceman who appears to be available and will command interest is Carolina's Tim Gleason. "He's a good player," said one GM. Gleason is a UFA-to-be.
5. Another defenceman with trade potential is Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky. Hasn't been great (injuries not helping), but his talent is well-recognized. He's also attractive for another reason: His cap hit is $5.6 million in 2012-13, but the actual salary is $3 million. Teams love that. There are a couple of issues, however. First, Visnovsky has a no-move contract clause until July 1. Second, the Ducks say they aren't certain they're ready to completely give up on the season.
6. One GM who says he won't be moving defenders is Scott Howson of Columbus, who is on record as saying he's open for business, but indicated Saturday that he isn't interested in giving up those players. "Defencemen are very hard to find," he said. That includes John Moore, who a few other teams really like.
8. Is Tampa Bay's Brett Connolly being discussed at some level? There is some dispute as to whether or not he actually is available. As GM Steve Yzerman tries to improve the Lightning, teams are asking for his young players in return. So if he's going to be able to do it, he's going to have to give up something -- and GMs and scouts are watching Connolly closely at the world juniors.
9. One of my university professors had a saying: "When you're successful, you can be eccentric. When you're not, you can't." That's where we are with Philadelphia's Ilya Bryzgalov. If he had stopped after joking that not starting the Winter Classic was "good news" for the Flyers, everyone would have laughed and moved on. But he kept going, then tweeted a photo of the thermos he was going to bring. He's right that there are much bigger issues in the universe than struggles between the pipes. But when Philly's 79-year-old owner is paying him $51 million to deliver one more Stanley Cup, the organization doesn't care about the European debt crisis.
10. New York head coach John Tortorella can be very tough, but it's clear the Rangers respond to him. Why? Several players say it's because they respect the fact he treats every player the same, no matter where they fit in the lineup. One added that if you have a couple of bad shifts in a row, he makes it clear you may not get many more.
11. That reminds me of Harry Neale, who said Scotty Bowman was the best at getting his team to play hard "because players knew if they didn't start the game well, he wouldn't use them."
13. Mike Rupp between periods on his [Jaromir] Jagr salute: "Oh that's his? I did that since I was a kid" (winks). On Sunday, Rupp, who has a fantastic sense of humour, was asking reporters about Jagr doing it in Pittsburgh last week. Rupp might be the first Ranger to get a standing ovation in Steeltown.
14. For Edmonton, it should be more important for the young players to be developing properly and learning the right attitudes than worrying about playoff position (Honestly, look at that conference and tell me they are ready). On Monday, Ladislav Smid and Shawn Horcoff led the team to a heckuva win in Chicago after Tom Gilbert went down. The key thing is the young players recognizing that.
15. That said, watching Ales Hemsky bail out of an icing race with 20 seconds left was awful. The Oilers can't allow that to continue, especially guys trying everything to play through pain like Ryan Whitney.
16. Was a lot of fun to chat with Ed Snider for Monday's Inside Hockey. The Flyers owner is a fascinating man. For all the controversy over the years about pushing injured bodies into the lineup, no organization does a better job of taking care of retired players/employees than Philadelphia. If, God forbid, a family goes through something worse (Barry Ashbee, Pelle Lindbergh, Dmitri Tertyshny, Bruce Gamble), he really steps up, although he doesn't like talking about it.
17. Keith Jones (knee) and Keith Primeau (concussion) said that minutes after doctors told them their careers were over, they received a phone call from Snider. He thanked them for their effort and promised they would never have to worry about their futures. Primeau said Snider still asks him if he's making a good living.
18. Everyone in the organization calls him "Mr. Snider." He'll generally respond, "Call me Ed." The regular response is, "OK, Mr. Snider."
19. As proud as he is of the Broad Street Bullies, I heard he didn't like the 1987 pre-game playoff brawl with the Montreal Canadiens. "Why would you ask me that?" he said when I brought it up. But he admitted he wasn't thrilled.
20. One of the problems with Toronto's penalty kill is illustrated in this goal from Saturday's loss in Winnipeg. You cannot allow that Kyle Wellwood pass to get through. Their insistence in defencemen having two hands on the stick really opens passing lanes.
21. Our cameraman wanted to get a shot of James Reimer walking into the MTS Centre for that game, his first NHL start in his home province of Manitoba. Big night. Camera was ready to go at 3 p.m. local time but never saw Reimer. Why? He was already there. A goalie showing up four hours before the warmup? That's very unusual.
22. Montreal talked about a five-year extension with Josh Gorges during the summer, but couldn't get it done. One of the reasons? The offer wasn't as high as the $3.9 million the two sides finally agreed to just after Christmas. In the end, the Canadiens realized that if they needed to replace Gorges through free agency, it was probably going to cost at least that much. And you may not know the replacement as well as you know Gorges.
23. One of Randy Cunneyworth's coaching philosophies: "I don't think any player should try to beat an opponent one-on-one unless it's to get a scoring chance." Will be interesting to see how Subban deals with that idea.
24. The morning of Cunneyworth's first coaching win (in Ottawa), Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty was saying, "Someone needs to step up." Then, he paused and smiled. "Maybe it will be me," he added. That night, Pacioretty fought Brian Lee, his first fight since his injury. Clearly, he'd decided it was time for drastic action.
25. Get the feeling Ottawa recognizes it won't see the best from Kyle Turris until next season. Missing two months is "like getting on the treadmill on Level 1 when everyone else is at Level 7," Senators head coach Paul MacLean said.
26. Was interesting to hear Turris admit on Inside Hockey that the strategy of asking Phoenix for a huge contract was one he'd do over if he could. It clouded the issue of wanting a fresh start, making him look money-hungry.
27. Saw a hilarious exchange at an Ottawa practice between Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson. They were yelling at each other in Swedish about the rules of keepaway. Karlsson was pushing the puck between Alfredsson's legs, but the captain replied it didn't matter because the whole purpose is to keep possession. In return, Alfredsson fired the puck down into a corner so Karlsson had to chase it.
28. Alfredsson said Alex Kovalev was the best he ever faced in keepaway, but "the Sedins are really good, too." Before Detroit fans begin to mobilize, he says he's never tried it against Red Wings marvel Pavel Datsyuk.
29. Future NHL Winter Classic scenarios: It's widely believed Detroit will be next year's host. (Curious to see if Toronto is the opponent. Lots of politics surround that decision). The Capitals were promised a home event after playing in Pittsburgh last year and are in position to follow Detroit. In 2015, Yankee Stadium frees up and, even though the NHL has looked at other New York-area locations, the Yankees want the NHL and the league wants it there. Consider these cities the American favourites.
30. I know the NHL Winter Classic is a made-for-TV event, overly hokey and too Northeast-centric for a lot of people's tastes. I've been to every one on both sides of the border and wonder as each approaches if this is the one I'm finally going to get sick of. It never happens, though. The real strength is in being there. The fans create great atmosphere and the players love it. The 82-game season gets monotonous and this is a bolt of energy for them.
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