Artemi Panarin was the overtime hero as the Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 (Photo via NHL Images).
Blue Jackets rally to defeat the Leafs, three stars of the week and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Artemi Panarin’s overtime goal gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Jackets overcame a 2-0 deficit on goals by Nick Foligno and Pierre-Luc Dubois late in the third period. James van Riemsdyk and William Nylander tallied for the Leafs.
Earlier in the day, the league fined Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard $5,000.00 for slashing Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck during Sunday’s game between the two clubs.
Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jonathan Bernier and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Jan. 7, 2018.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights are on route to a record-setting performance by an expansion team. At 29-10-2, they have the third-highest wins total for a team in its first season (the record is 33, held by the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks) while their 18 home victories are just four shy of the record (22) set by the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s safe to say the Golden Knights will break those aforementioned records. With a .732 points percentage, they’re also on pace to become the first club in the expansion era to finish with a .500 record.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers are targeting the beginning of February for goaltender Roberto Luongo’s return from a lower-body injury.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Good news for Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi, as he’s considered day-to-day after taking a slapshot by Detroit’s Martin Frk off the back of his neck during Sunday’s contest between the two clubs.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The Blackhawks yesterday placed defenseman Cody Franson on waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston expects the 30-year-old Franson will be claimed today. Despite his lack of speed, he’s a rearguard with a right-handed shot carrying an affordable contract who could be attractive to clubs seeking blueline depth. Johnston also suggests a lower-ranked club could claim Franson and use him as potential trade bait near the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
ESPN.COM: Should the NHL expand to Seattle, Emily Kaplan offers up her take on how to better realign the 32 franchises into four divisions.
The National Hockey League’s decision to allow a prospective ownership group in Seattle to submit a bid for an expansion franchise could have considerable repercussions.
It’s no secret the league has had interest in putting a franchise in the American Pacific Northwest for some time. Seattle has a long hockey history and is the current home of the WHL’s Thunderbirds. A competitive NHL franchise in that city would be a natural rival with the Vancouver Canucks.
Expansion to Seattle would balance out the league’s two conferences, with 16 teams in each. It’ll also be another nice cash grab for the exisiting team owners, as the proposed expansion fee of $650 million would go directly into their pockets. That’s because it isn’t counted as hockey-related revenue under the current collective bargaining agreement, an apparent lack of foresight by the NHL Players Association during the last round of CBA talks that they’re probably still kicking themselves over on a daily basis.
While the PA will miss out on in those sweet expansion fees, its membership will reap the benefits of the 23 new jobs created for the players and the additional hockey-related revenue another new franchise will generate, including higher salary-cap hikes and potentially lower escrow clawbacks from their salaries. Maybe, just maybe, that might pave the way toward smoother future CBA talks, avoiding another unnecessary work stoppage that only serves to test the patience of the league’s fans.
Expansion into Seattle, however, dims the possibility of the NHL returning to Quebec City. Despite the presence of a sparkling new 18,000-seat venue in the capital of la belle province, it’s still not enough to woo a new NHL team.
Location, of course, is the problem. The NHL doesn’t want to widen the existing imbalance between the conferences by placing another team in the East. Quebec City’s market size also pales in comparison to Seattle. Yes, it may be more hockey-mad and would be fueled as well by the rekindling of the rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, but its media reach would be limited in scale. Factor in the lower value of the Canadian dollar in recent years, and Quebec City’s chances of landing an expansion franchise appears remote.
Or is it?
The city of Houston could be another potential location for an NHL expansion club. Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, last month met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss the potential of a pro hockey franchise in that Texas city.
Like Seattle, Houston has a long hockey history. It was home to the WHA Aeros of the 1970s and the IHL Aeros from 1994 to 2001. The city came close to landing an NHL team in 1997, when a group of local businessmen nearly succeeded in buying the Edmonton Oilers with the intent of relocating that franchise.
Should the Vegas Golden Knights build upon its current inaugural-season success and a franchise in Seattle follow suit, the NHL board of governors could be enticed to consider further expansion with new clubs in Houston and Quebec City. If potential owners in those cities are willing to pay the skyrocketing expansion fees and can prove those markets could sustain NHL clubs, it might not be a far-fetched idea.
Then again, maybe the league brain trust is keeping an eye on Houston and Quebec City as potential relocation cities for currently struggling franchises.
The impending sale of the Carolina Hurricanes to Dallas businessman Tom Dundon prompted some NHL followers to consider that club a relocation candidate. However, Bettman insists the Hurricanes aren’t moving. Besides, the earliest Dundon could move the team (if that’s what he wants) is 2024, when their arena lease expires. Trying to buy his way out of it would prove too costly.
Meanwhile, the future of the Arizona Coyotes has been in doubt for years. Bettman has stubbornly supported the franchise, currently in the midst of seeking a deal to build a new arena closer to downtown Phoenix. Should those efforts fall through, however, Houston could a tempting destination.
Should the New York Islanders’ bid to construct a new arena in Belmont Park fall through, their future in the New York area could be in question. With the Isles’ relationship with the owners of Barclays Center souring and Bettman insisting the club won’t be returning to Nassau Coliseum, Quebec City or Houston could become quick fallback plans, just as Winnipeg was in 2011 for the Atlanta Thrashers.
Houston could also be the future home of the Calgary Flames. Negotiations between the Flames ownership and the city of Calgary over a new arena are downright frosty right now, to the point where team co-owner Murray Edwards recently voiced his pessimism to his fellow league governors over the prospects of getting a deal done.
Edwards also said the Flames aren’t for sale. However, that doesn’t mean the current ownership won’t threaten to relocate if they can’t get the city of Calgary to bend to their demands over the distribution of the construction costs.
To the surprise of no one, the Flames want the city to pick up more of the tab than Mayor Naheed Nenshi is willing to spend. With Nenshi recently reelected to a four-year term, don’t be surprised if Murray and Bettman start ratcheting up the relocation threats.
Many NHL pundits doubt the Flames are going anywhere, suggesting it would be difficult for Edwards and Bettman to justify leaving a strong hockey market with a rich history. Don’t kid yourself. If the Calgary city council is unwilling to bend, the Flames will be in Houston before you can finish singing, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas.”
And they’ll justify it by painting Calgary’s municipal politicians as the bad guys for robbing the good folks of the Stampede City of their beloved hockey team, leaving the league no choice but to move to a friendlier city with a better arena.
Of course, this is merely all speculation. Seattle’s expansion bid could fall through. The league could decide that 32 franchises are quite enough. Maybe Quebec City will suffer the same fate as Hamilton, which built a big shiny arena over 30 years ago in the vain hope of attracting an NHL team. The Hurricanes could stay put in Raleigh, the Islanders could get their new home in Belmont Park, the Coyotes could get new digs in Phoenix and the Flames and the city of Calgary could eventually hammer out an arena deal.
Still, given the promise of the Vegas Golden Knights, the prospect of a successful franchise in the Pacific Northwest and the ongoing uncertainty facing several existing clubs in their current markets, the effects of a successful expansion bid in Seattle could be felt throughout the NHL over the next decade.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk celebrates one of his three goals against the Nashville Predators.
Game recaps, injury updates, expansion draft rules & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: James van Riemsdyk’s hat trick power the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 6-2 thumping of the Nashville Predators. The Predators were without goalie Pekka Rinne, who’s day-to-day with a lower body injury.
J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes each scored twice as the New York Rangers crushed the Vancouver Canucks 7-2.
Aaron Ekblad’s fluky overtime goal lifted the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens, handing the latter consecutive losses for the first time this season.
Nikita Kucherov scored twice to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, but Lightning captain Steven Stamkos left the game with an apparent injury to his right leg. The Wings also lost forward Darren Helm indefinitely to an upper-body injury.
Erik Karlsson’s shootout goal lifted the Ottawa Senators to a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Adam Henrique’s overtime marker gave the New Jersey Devils their fifth straight win, beating the Dallas Stars 2-1. The Devils played without Taylor Hall, who returned to New Jersey to undergo an MRI for a lower-body injury.
Connor Hellebuyck made 27 saves for his first shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
John Gibson made 33 saves backstopping the Anaheim Ducks to a 4-1 victory over the slumping Edmonton Oilers, handing the latter their fourth straight defeat.
Johnny Gaudreau scored the only goal and Brian Elliott made 27 saves as the Calgary Flames shut out the Minnesota Wild 1-0.
Cam Atkinson’s overtime market gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals.
Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward made 22 saves to shut out the San Jose Sharks 1-0.
The St. Louis Blues snapped a three-game losing skid with a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Patrick Wiercioch had a goal and an assist and Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves as the Colorado Avalanche dumped the Los Angeles Kings 4-1.
ESPN.COM: Concerns about potential loopholes in next June’s expansion draft were among the topics in yesterday’s meeting of NHL general managers. They were concerned the Las Vegas franchise could take advantage of the 48-hour window to talk to other club’s pending UFAs, quietly agree to a contract with a free agent but not officially announce it until July 1, thus enabling them to select another player off that team’s roster via the expansion draft. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said any team that violates the draft rules will be forced to forego a first-round pick.
KUKLA’S KORNER: The Centennial Classic Alumni Game lineups were revealed yesterday. Notable participants include Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour, Niklas Lidstrom and Brendan Shanahan.