Edmonton Oilers new arena decision could come soon

On the ice, the Edmonton Oilers are looking to bounce back from what was by far the worst season of any NHL team in 09-10 by building up their team with prospects. Much like the once-floundering Pittsburgh Penguins’ struggles with the relatively ancient Mellon Arena, perhaps that influx of potential stars will help Oilers owner Daryl Katz get the club’s long-awaited arena deal done.

TSN reports that the $400 million deal (with reportedly $1.5 billion in overall development money involved in the proposals) may see its make-or-break day as soon as June 28. First, let’s consider the stakes at hand.

Get it right and the proposed $400-million rink becomes the transformative force for a cultural and economic renaissance.

Get it wrong and generations of taxpayers pay the price and the core, just springing back to life with condos and storefront shops, is killed in the cradle.

As the story says, time is a big factor but money is the most important. The Edmonton area is fledgling (just ask stars who pooh-poohed a trade to the region like Dany Heatley) and could certainly use a shot in the arm. That being said, many critics point out that other Canadian teams who built new arenas did so with little or no public funding.

The Oilers want spades in the ground in 18 months so that the new rink is ready to go when the lease expires in 2014 on their current home, the aging Rexall Place.

There’s obviously a lot of money – and, in a worst case scenario, the fate of a franchise that won a slew of Cups in the Wayne Gretzky Era – on the line but a lot can change in a month or more. We’ll keep you updated as this crucial situation makes its way toward a conclusion.

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    Kane, Holtby, Duchene named NHL’s three stars for November

    Patrick Kane
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    A winger, a goalie and a center were the NHL’s three stars for October.

    And now a winger, a goalie and a center are the NHL’s three stars for November, too.

    On Tuesday, the league announced that Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Washington’s Braden Holtby and Colorado’s Matt Duchene were the first, second and third stars for the month, this after naming Dallas’ Jamie Benn, Montreal’s Carey Price and Boston’s David Krejci as the three stars last month.


    Kane led the NHL with 15 assists and 23 points, registering at least one point in all 13 November games to guide the Blackhawks (13-8-3, 29 points) to a 7-3-3 month and third place in the Central Division.

    Holtby went 9-2-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and one shutout to pace the NHL in wins and backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to a 9-3-1 month and second place in the Metropolitan Division.

    Duchene paced the NHL with 11 goals and ranked second with 20 points in 14 games to power the Avalanche (9-14-1, 19 points) to a 6-8-0 November. In doing so, he became the first Avalanche player to score 11 or more goals in one calendar month since February 2003 (Milan Hejduk: 12).

    Kane, of course, is also currently riding a 19-game point streak, the longest by an American-born player in NHL history and the longest by any player since Sidney Crosby had a point in 25 straight games during the ’10-11 campaign.

    Kane will look to extend his streak tonight, when the ‘Hawks take on the Wild (NBCSN, 8 p.m. ET).

    Strome, Marner highlight Team Canada’s World Junior roster

    Connor McDavid
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    Hockey Canada announced its roster for the World Junior selection camp on Tuesday and, unsurprisingly, the list is filled with first-round picks.

    Chief among them? Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner, taken third and fourth overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Strome, property of the Arizona Coyotes and Marner, property of the Maple Leafs, are just two of nine first-rounders from this June’s draft heading to camp; the roster also includes five first-rounders from the ’14 draft.

    Thirty players in total were invited. That means there’ll be some stiff competition for roster spots, though not in goal, where only Calgary and New Jersey prospects Mason McDonald and Mackenzie Blackwood will attend.

    The full list of invitees:



    As for the fate of two WJC-eligible NHLers — Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann — Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski said his organization is holding out hope both will be available for selection.

    Another brief post on the unpredictable nature of goaltending

    Michal Neuvirth
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    We did this last year at around this time. Let’s do it again. Among goalies that have started at least 10 games, know who’s number one in save percentage?

    It’s not Henrik Lundqvist, though he’s up there at .935.

    It’s not Carey Price either (.934).

    It’s Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth, at .939. Anyone see that coming? Sure, Neuvirth played reasonably well last year for Buffalo, but this is a guy who’s started more than 40 games just once in his career. The Flyers signed him this summer to be Steve Mason‘s backup. His cap hit is a measly $1.625 million. The point is, any goalie that’s good enough to play in the NHL is good enough to have a hot streak in the NHL. It’s very hard to differentiate which of them have staying power and which don’t.

    Another name among the current save percentage leaders is Toronto’s James Reimer. So to recap: Reimer had a good rookie year in 2010-11, and the Leafs were confident they’d found their guy. Then the next season he suffered a concussion in October and when he got back he struggled to regain his form. But he bounced back in 2013! Alas, it all came crashing down in the playoffs during the Great Choke in Boston. So the Leafs went out and got Jonathan Bernier, who’s a whole other story that we could delve into here. Where were we with Reimer? Right. The Great Choke. The next two seasons, Reimer was Bernier’s backup. He wasn’t particularly good. Until this year. When he’s good again.

    Now let’s look at a few names at the bottom of the list. Keep in mind that .915 is the league average for save percentage.

    —- Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov is last at .887, Cam Ward is down there at .898, and Tuukka Rask is just barely better at .899. Combined cap hit? Almost $20 million.

    Cam Talbot at .889. Good last year for the Rangers, not so good this year for the Oilers. So…is it him? Or, is it the team in front of him? Because if it’s the latter — gasp! — what does that say about Lundqvist? He’s never played for another team. What would The King’s numbers be like for Edmonton? You know, there are people who believe that Martin Brodeur wasn’t actually that great. But let’s move on before we go down that wormhole.

    — Sergei Bobrovsky at .907. Hey, didn’t that guy win the Vezina a couple of years ago?

    Devan Dubnyk at .909. Remember when he salvaged his career and saved the Wild? You should. It happened less than a year ago. Earned him a nice $26 million contract through 2021. This is exactly why we didn’t envy Chuck Fletcher. What was he going to do — let Dubnyk walk? And hey, it could still turn out to be a great signing. Only time will tell. That’s the whole point of this post.

    Bottom line: goaltending is an extremely tough position for general managers to address. On the one hand, we know that teams can win Stanley Cups with guys who are making peanuts. (See: Jonathan Quick in 2012 and Corey Crawford in 2013.) But at the same time, no team can survive bad goaltending. Which is to say, a GM that gambles on an inexpensive option is a GM that could look really bad down the line. Of course, you know who else can look really bad? A GM that locks up a goalie long term, only for that goalie to become a bad goalie.

    This is why GMs don’t sleep well and get fired a lot.

    Related: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov

    Detroit’s Larkin wins rookie of the month for November

    Teemu Pulkkinen, Dylan Larkin
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    One of the youngest players in the NHL has been rewarded for his outstanding play last month.

    On Tuesday, Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin was named rookie of the month for November, after leading all first-year players in goals (seven in 13 games).

    From the league:

    Larkin edged Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (5-8—13 in 13 GP), New York Rangers center Oscar Lindberg (4-5—9 in 14 GP), Arizona Coyotes left wing Max Domi (3-6—9 in 12 GP), Calgary Flames center Sam Bennett (4-4—8 in 12 GP) and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (4-4—8 in 13 GP) for the honor.

    Larkin, the 15th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, recorded six of his seven goals in the final seven contests of the month (6-1—7), including a four-game goal streak Nov. 16-21 (4-0—4). In doing so, the 19-year-old Waterford, Mich., native became the first teenager to post a four-game goal streak for the Red Wings since 1984-85, when Steve Yzerman had a pair of four-game runs.

    Needless to say it’s been a banner campaign for Larkin, the first teenager to play for the Red Wings since Jiri Hudler (also 19 years old) in 2003-04. He’s also in some elite company by winning rookie of the month, joining Oilers freshman sensation Connor McDavid, who captured the honors for October.