Ice Edge group insists they can afford Coyotes

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Calling the Phoenix Coyotes ownership scenario “messy” is about as much of an understatement as it would be to call their inspiring playoff run unexpected. The saga has seen all kinds of twists and turns, from the mess that was the Jim Ballsillie court case to the odd lawsuits between the NHL and Jerry Moyes all the way to the discouraging situation the team is in with potential owner Ice Edge.

Questions of Ice Edge’s financial viability sprouted up once again today. Dave Shoalts wrote this of Ice Edge’s chances.

At this point, it looks as if Anthony LeBlanc, Daryl Jones and the rest of the Ice Edge group will not even get off the runway. Too many problems are coming up, almost all of them because no one in the group appears to have the substantial personal fortune needed to convince a banker or bankers to lend Ice Edge enough money to pull it off.

Such critiques – and even critiques of those critiques – must be a beating for Coyotes fans. It certainly seems like the Ice Edge group is aware of their pain, which prompted them to send an “open letter” to ‘Yotes fans. The letter was printed in Coyotes blog Five for Howling today. Here’s an excerpt.

We are happy to report that regardless of reports to the contrary, there have been no material changes in the process to date. As we stated from the outset, we fully expected the transaction to take upwards of six months, similar to other recent transactions for other NHL franchises. Ice Edge Holdings continues to work very closely with the City of Glendale and the NHL towards finalizing a lease that will be appropriate for all parties.

The execution of a revised lease is the key outstanding issue, and once completed will allow the transaction to move towards closing. We are neither behind nor ahead of our expected timelines.

Admittedly, I initially thought that the league should consider going with Balsillie. The Blackberry mastermind obviously has deep pockets and – one might assume – more business savvy than most of the league’s owners. Making it seven seems like a fairly noble goal.

That being said, Coyotes fans have been through a lot of unnecessary suffering. Fans in nontraditional markets deserve just as much respect as those who root for Original Six franchises. Hopefully this will all work out for them.

(For further reading on the Ice Edge group, check out this post.)

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.