Dallas Stars sale down to two Canadian businessmen

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Hicks2.jpgDallas Stars fans, start rejoicing.

The time when Tom Hicks is
no longer the owner of the Stars is drawing ever closer, which can only
be a relief during a time in which the team is completely handcuffed
financially. Hicks Sports Group, the holding company that owns the
Stars, is locked in a financial battle to pay back $525 million in
defaulted loans — HSG is currently attempting sell the Texas Rangers,
and now it seems that the sale of the Dallas Stars is getting ready to
take the next step.

David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail is
reporting that according to his sources, the next owner of the Dallas
Stars will be one of two Canadian businessmen.

The local potential
ownership group, fronted by Jim Lites and with Mike Modano as a
potential member, has fallen out of contention for ownership of the
Stars according to Shoalts.

So that leaves Calgary oil businessman
Bill Gallacher and Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi. Per Shoalts:

At this point, there is no favourite in this race but the clear winners
barring any surprise developments will be the NHL and Dallas hockey
fans. If either Gallacher or Gaglardi is presented to the league
governors for approval this summer, it will be a second home run on the
ownership front for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman after some
embarrassing whiffs. Both men have deep pockets, something of a rarity
among NHL owners in recent years.

The key words there are “deep pockets”. As Hicks’ spending habits
started to dry up, so did the Stars ability to continue to maintain a
high level of success. While there certainly some growing pains
associated with the transition to Joe Nieuwendyk’s and coach Marc
Crawford’s new system, it’s seemed for the past few seasons that the
Stars were just a few players away from truly being special —
especially on defense.

The Stars are currently sitting $14 million or so under the salary
cap with six spots open on the roster. In reality, the team is
handcuffed by an internal budget that likely limits the Stars to $10
million under the cap; a very painful proposition for fans that see a
team on the cusp of making the next step.

While Gallacher would be a welcome addition to the NHL and to Dallas, you have to think that Tom Gaglardi would ultimately be the best choice. He is part owner of the Kamloops Blazers and has ties with the NHL already. Gallacher’s deep pockets would be welcome, certainly, but one with deep pockets and an in with the league would be welcomed with open arms.

It’s highly unlikely that a change in ownership will be able to help
the Stars this summer — free agency begins in July and the board of
governors still needs to vote on which ownership group they’d approve.
It’s more than likely that both Gaglardi and Gallacher would be easily
approved, it’s just a matter now of HSG and Tom Hicks deciding on the
better offer. According to Shoalts, the team could be sold for between
$200 and $240 million “depending on how the team’s debt under current
owner Tom Hicks is handled.” Still, a change in ownership this summer
will certainly free up the team for any moves they need to make next
season.

The Stars have seen revenue drop a bit recently, after years of being
one of the highest revenue-producing teams in the NHL. They missed the
playoffs two years in a row for the first time since moving to Dallas
and there is not doubt that the team has taken a backseat to the Dallas
Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks and Texas Rangers — a dangerous position to
be in for hockey in North Texas.

Yet I can tell you that an eager and enthusiastic owner, one who is
smart and yet still willing to spend the money, has the ability to make
Dallas a hockey crazy city once more. The team has recently taken steps
to lower ticket prices and get away from the “corporate” reputation that
had surrounded the team since moving to American Airlines Center — the
lower bowl, once dominated by business-owned season ticket holders, is
now being catered to the true fan.

Whether it’s Bill Gallacher or Tom Gaglardi, there’s no doubt that
the change will be good not only for the Dallas Stars and the fans but
for the NHL as well. Hockey is amazingly popular in Texas and the league
needs for the Stars to be successful. More importantly, the team needs
an owner that knows what it takes to build a successful team. Hicks’
strategy was to hand over control to Bob Gainey and then sit back and
reap the benefits; since his departure as GM it’s been nothing but a
downward spiral.

‘I felt a huge pop’: Bishop suffered an ankle/shin injury in Eastern Conference Final

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop looks at the ice after allowing a goal by Detroit Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Saturday, March 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop revealed he had strained ligaments in his ankle/shin area, which ultimately put him on the sidelines for the Eastern Conference Final.

Bishop was stretchered off the ice after suffering the injury in the first period of Game 1 versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, and never returned to game action, meaning back-up Andrei Vasilevskiy had to take over the starting duties for the duration of the series.

“When I went down, I felt a huge pop. I thought somebody two-handed me in the shin. Once I felt the pop and then it was a bunch of pressure and pain, I thought my leg broke,” Bishop told reporters.

“I pretty much strained all the stuff in my shin and ankle. I was coming back and it was getting better. I was able to skate there at the end but going down in the butterfly and those movements — like going up against the post — it was still really painful and I just wouldn’t have been effective.”

Bishop estimated he was getting close to a return, but still a “week or so” before he could play with the pain.

“It was getting there. Just tough timing.”

Bishop, 29, has one more year remaining on his current deal that comes with a cap hit of $5.95 million and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. Vasilevskiy, 21, played well when called upon in the post-season and has one year remaining on his deal. He’s slated to become a restricted free agent after next season.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman acknowledged that at some point, a decision on their goalies will probably be necessary, either for salary cap reasons or perhaps a potential expansion draft.

“We’ve got two outstanding goaltenders. I know that,” said Yzerman.

Added Bishop: “If you look around this league right now, you need two goalies to win.”

Yzerman: ‘I think the best thing for this team is Jonathan Drouin being on it’

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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Talk about a whirlwind season for Jonathan Drouin.

The talented forward, and third overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, went from the center of a well documented controversy for a public trade request to a pivotal component for the Tampa Bay Lightning in its playoff quest that fell just short of a Stanley Cup Final berth after a Game 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.

The 21-year-old Drouin, recalled from the AHL when Steven Stamkos was taken out of the lineup with a blood clot, scored five goals and 14 points in 17 playoff games. And, based on the comments of general manager Steve Yzerman to reporters, he’ll be a regular on this team when the 2016-17 season begins in the fall.

Drouin has one more year remaining on his entry-level contract before he’s a restricted free agent, as per General Fanager.

Funny how some things can change.

The Drouin trade request was one of the more contentious — not to mention ongoing — storylines this season. But it could be that both sides have since resolved their differences.

“I definitely want to be here,” said Drouin, as per the Tampa Bay Times. “I love the way this ended, I guess with this different and weird year. But the way this finished and it’s definitely somewhere I want to play.”

In this case, the best deal was the one Yzerman never made. Even as speculation and reports and rumor circulated the situation for weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

“He makes us a better team. Simple as that,” Yzerman told reporters. “He can do things — a talented young player that’s only going to get better.

“I think the best thing for this team is Jonathan Drouin being on it.”

 

Penguins enter Stanley Cup Final as favorites over Sharks: online bookmaker

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The Pittsburgh Penguins, led by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, were last in the Stanley Cup Final in 2009, when they hoisted hockey’s silver chalice.

The San Jose Sharks are in uncharted waters, having never been here before, and that includes Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, both veterans of more than 1,000 regular season games played.

Perhaps that’s why the Penguins, one of the marquee NHL teams given their generational super star Crosby, are -135 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, according to online bookmaker Bovada on Friday. The Sharks were listed as +115 underdogs.

The Penguins, a force in the NHL since a coaching change in mid-December, became the betting favorites to win it all following their series win over Alex Ovechkin and the rival Washington Capitals in the second round.

Game 1 of the final goes Monday in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins will start with home ice advantage.

So far in these playoffs, the Penguins have gone 7-3 at Consol Energy Center. The Sharks are 5-4 on the road, where they actually started 3-0 following the first round against the L.A. Kings.

Right now, the Sharks possess the top three point producers in these playoffs in Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski (the leading goal scorer with 13) and Brent Burns, while Phil Kessel — as part of that dynamic HBK Line — is fifth in the league and leads the Penguins with 18 points in 18 games.

 

‘Two legends’ Thornton and Marleau prepare for first Stanley Cup Final

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been linked ever since they went one-two in the 1997 NHL draft to Boston and San Jose.

They became teammates with the Sharks more than a decade ago, won a gold medal for Canada at the 2010 Olympics and each had their captaincies stripped as they became the faces of so many postseason failures in San Jose.

Now at age 36 and after more than 3,000 combined games, 949 goals and 2,610 career points in the regular and postseason, Thornton and Marleau have the opportunity to add the only thing missing on their impressive career resumes if they can win the Stanley Cup.

“It’s just the next step for us,” Thornton said Friday. “We’ve been doing a really good job of staying day to day, shift to shift. This is just another challenge we’re hoping to come out on top on.”

Related: Here’s your  TV schedule for the Stanley Cup Final on NBC Sports

The two will take the ice in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their careers on Monday night in Pittsburgh, ending a long journey that included many disappointments and criticism that was often undeserved.

“It’s two legends,” teammate Brent Burns said. “I’ve said it before. Those two are some of the best players to ever play the game. It’s huge to get them here. They’ve done pretty much everything else. They sometimes take a bad rap in the media, which is unnecessary. Anybody that’s played with them sees the way that they work and what kind of teammates they are, what kind of people they are. They’re two of the best.”

They just haven’t always been considered that way because of the lack of playoff success that was at times as much a reflection on the lack of help they got as it was on any deficiencies in their games.

But both also had times when they failed to raise their game at the biggest points of the season. Thornton went pointless during a seven-game series loss to Montreal in his final playoffs in Boston in 2004 while he played with torn rib cartilage. Thornton also posted a -11 rating in the 2010 playoffs in San Jose when the Sharks got swept by Chicago in the Western Conference final.

Marleau struggled in the 2007-09 playoffs when San Jose got knocked out twice in the second round and then lost as the top seed in the first round to Anaheim in 2009. That led to the Sharks demoting him from captain.

The two have had plenty of playoff success along the way as well, but it has been the failures that colored people’s perceptions of them, none more than blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 in a collapse that ultimately led to Thornton being stripped of the captaincy.

“We’ve been through a lot here,” teammate Logan Couture said. “I’ve only been here seven years but those guys have been here longer than I have and they deserve this. They’ve been through a lot, Patty especially.”

Marleau played 165 playoff games before reaching his first final, the most of any player. He lost his first three trips to the conference final and needed 16 trips to the playoffs to reach the final round.

Thornton was next on that list with 150 games, including two conference final losses before making it to the Cup in his 15th postseason.

The fact they will be there in Sharks uniforms only makes it more special. There was talk they could be traded the summer after the 2014 playoff collapse, Thornton had a public feud with general manager Doug Wilson last season and there were reports that Marleau was seeking a trade earlier this season.

Nothing ever materialized and the two are still in San Jose to the delight of all sides. Thornton is playing perhaps the best two-way hockey of his career, posting three goals and 15 assists through the first three rounds and dominating possession against the other team’s top players.

After spending much of the year as a third-line center, Marleau moved back to his more familiar spot of a second-line wing alongside Couture. He has four goals and eight assists so far, including two helpers in the third period of the conference final clincher against St. Louis.

“We’re just enjoying the ride right now,” Marleau said. “We’ve had some really good teams over the years. This team is a little bit different. The confidence we’ve built over the regular season and now in the playoffs, I think winning on the road helped us get close as a group during the regular season. It carried over into the playoffs so far. Just having each other’s back out there, working for each other.”