Stars beat writer cannot confirm or deny rumors of Dallas Stars sale

hicksandcrawford.jpgWe discussed a Forbes report of the Dallas Stars possibly being sold for $275-$300 million yesterday, but Dallas Stars beat writer Mike Heika was unable to confirm – or deny – these rumors.

I got a hold of four people who could have information on the sale today, and none of them offered anything in regards to the Forbes Report that the Stars could be sold soon with a sale price of between $275 million and $300 million.

Two gave clean no comments, and a couple of others said they were a little blindsided by the report and asked what I knew about it, so there still is an air at least that this could be another false alarm.

When The Hockey News reported earlier that Bill Gallacher had agreed to buy the team for $225 million, there were several immediate comments that this was not true and that the price was too low. On this one, nobody is stepping up right now to shoot it down. That could mean that the rumor has some truth behind it or it could mean that the people who could shoot it down don’t want to. They like having it out there that the Stars are worth that much.

One of the questions with the Rangers was how much property was involved in the sale. When the parking lots were tossed in, that created a different price structure and created problems with the lenders, so they were taken out. The Stars have some ownership in the Dr Pepper StarCenters as part of Hicks Sports Group, but the Hicks family owns the Cedar Park Stars as a separate entity. Are those properties involved? These things are tricky, so price is often confusing.

If the Stars can follow the Texas Rangers’ lead (although maybe improve on the very questionable pace of their baseball brothers) and wiggle their way out of owner Tom Hicks’ green-challenged grasp, it would be a pivotal summer for sports teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

As Joe pointed out on Wednesday, the Stars are in a financial holding pattern that places them as a team with the sixth-lowest payroll in the NHL. They still must re-sign restricted free agents James “The Real Deal” Neal and Nicklas Grossman, with Neal’s deal being an especially interesting conversation. The team still badly needs a defenseman or two, so you wonder if GM Joe Nieuwendyk might have pursued a Tomas Kaberle trade (or a free agent D-man) a lot more aggressively without ownership shackles on the Stars’ collective wallet.

Now, keep in mind that Heika didn’t deny the rumors, either. Time will tell if those reports are true – and if the Rangers team sale situation is any indication – time won’t give us answer very quickly. We’ll keep an eye on the situation as it progresses and fill you in when we hear more information.

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    Poll: Will the Leafs have a captain this year?

    Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock stands on the bench during the first period of the team's NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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    There are six teams currently without a captain — Carolina, Edmonton, Florida, Nashville, Winnipeg and Toronto — and of the six, it’s the latter that seems furthest from filling the role.

    Back in April, head coach Mike Babcock said he didn’t expect the Leafs to have a captain this season. That news hardly came as a surprise — Toronto had just wrapped a difficult first year of what figures to be a lengthy rebuild, and didn’t seem to have any leading candidates to inherit the “C” from Dion Phaneuf, who was traded to Ottawa in February.

    Of course, things have changed since then.

    The biggest, by far, was Toronto landing phenom Auston Matthew with the first overall pick at the draft. GM Lou Lamoriello also locked in two of the club’s better young players — Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly — to matching six-year deals, and added a physical veteran presence in free agency by signing former Islander Matt Martin.

    All of this makes for a different dynamic in the dressing room, but will it impact the captaincy?

    Hard to say.

    At first glance, the Leafs still seem to lack a leading candidate, at least for the present. If Lamoriello and team president Brendan Shanahan wanted to go the veteran route, they could anoint Brooks Laich or Matt Hunwick as a placeholder, though neither projects to play a significant role on the team beyond this year and into the future.

    Rielly could be the guy but, at 22, he’d be awfully young.

    The same can be said of Matthews, though many do expect him to eventually captain the Leafs. But asking him to shoulder that responsibility now — as an 18-year-old rookie — would be the most anti-Lamoriello move of all time, so you can rule that out.

    Anyway, here’s how this will work. The poll will be a straight yes-no and, if you vote yes, put your pick for captain in the comments section.

    Welcome back: Flames sign Higgins to camp PTO

    Chris Higgins
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    Chris Higgins is back in Cowtown.

    On Tuesday, the Flames announced that Higgins would be attending training camp on a professional tryout, bringing him back to the organization he played part of the 2009-10 campaign with.

    Higgins, 33, had spent the last six years in Vancouver. His stint with the Canucks included some quality highs — a trip to the ’11 Stanley Cup Final, and an 18-goal, 43-point season the year following — but ended on a sour note last spring when, after GM Jim Benning failed to orchestrate a trade, Higgins was placed on waivers and spent time in AHL Utica.

    All told, Higgins finished the campaign with three goals and four points in 33 contests.

    In June, the Canucks bought out the last of his four-year, $10 million deal.

    Higgins has played in Calgary before — as mentioned above — but that’s not his only connection to the organization. The Flames’ new head coach, Glen Gulutzan, was the assistant in Vancouver for the last three years and worked closely with Higgins (who had a good season in Gulutzan’s first year with the Canucks, scoring 17 goals and 39 points).

     

     

    Under Pressure: Auston Matthews

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: (l-r) Lou Lamoriello and  Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs attend round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    This post is part of Toronto Maple Leafs day at PHT…

    It’s the collective, really.

    There’s no single reason why Auston Matthews was our clear cut choice for today’s “Under Pressure” post.

    No single reason, because there are so many reasons.

    There was the pre-draft hype, which was off the charts. There was Toronto tanking to get the No. 1 overall pick — or, as team president Brendan Shanahan put it, earning the pick “the hard way.”

    There were the names, too.

    Matthews is now linked to Patrick Kane, after becoming the first American to go No. 1 overall since Chicago took Kane nine years ago. Matthew is also now forever linked to Leafs legend Wendel Clark — Toronto’s last No. 1 overall pick, taken all the way back in 1985.

    Then, there’s his pedigree.

    And with that pedigree comes privilege.

    Before he ever played a second of NHL hockey, Matthews was named to Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey — ahead of the likes of Max Domi, Boone Jenner and Alex Galchenyuk, the latter a 30-goal scorer and already a veteran of nearly 300 NHL contests.

    Pundits have already slotted Matthews into a top-two center role in Toronto, one that will come with all the requisite power play time befitting a special offensive talent. As a result, expectations for this year are sky high. A recent NHL.com projection said the 60-point plateau should be within reach, and think pieces about how other rookies won’t just concede the Calder.

    Smartly, but perhaps futilely, Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello is trying to shield Matthew from some of pressure that comes along with being, y’know, the savior of a team in one of the league’s most storied markets.

    “I don’t think there’s any player that’s going to be the face of this franchise,” Lamoriello said at the draft, when asked if Matthews would be exactly that. “The logo will be the face of the franchise.”

    Lamoriello went on to say that when “you’re taking an 18-year-old and expect him to do wonders, it’s not fair.”

    No, it’s not fair.

    But it is the reality.

    Looking to make the leap: Nikita Zaitsev

    BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 26: Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev #2 of Russia dumps the puck in as forward Cody Eakin #21 of Canada tries to block the puck during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship Group B game between Canada and Russia on December 26, 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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    This post is part of Toronto Maple Leafs day at PHT…

    “I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. The physical part of the game will be different for him in the NHL, but the way he moves the puck and skates and how defensive you now have to be to play, it just really makes you think he can be really successful for the Leafs.”

    That quote was from former NHL defenseman Ryan Whitney, speaking in May about newly minted Toronto defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, who went up against Whitney in the KHL.

    So needless to say, expectations for Zaitsev this season are fairly high.

    And they’re high for reason. At 24, the undrafted blueliner has a wealth of professional experience — seven full campaigns, split between Novosibirsk and CSKA Moscow — and really came into his own over the last few years. He routinely led CSKA in d-man scoring, and was named a KHL first-team all-star in ’14-15.

    That pedigree should translate into plenty of opportunities in Toronto.

    And hey, Toronto has plenty of opportunities to offer.

    It’s likely one of the big reasons Zaitsev chose the Leafs over other interested suitors like Calgary, Vancouver, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (per Sportsnet). The Leafs are still in the early stages of their rebuild, and it shows on defense — based on current projections, Zaitsev could open as a top-four guy alongside Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and Matt Hunwick, leapfrogging the likes of Martin Maricin, Roman Polak and Connor Carrick in the process.

    The great unknown, of course, is how his success in the KHL will translate into North America. Every NHL club is hoping to land the next Artemi Panarin, but it’s important to remember that 1) Panarin is a forward, and 2) jumped onto a line next to Patrick Kane.

    The transition for defenders has generally been tougher, something folks in Philly saw last year with the failed Evgeny Medvedev experience.

    Of course, Zaitsev has a few more things going for him than his fellow Russian. He’s younger than Medvedev by nearly a decade, and is a coveted right-handed shot (Medvedev’s a lefty).

    And like most players coming over from the KHL, Zaitsev’s on a one-year, performance bonus-laden contract that amounts to a “prove it” deal in the NHL.

    That should be enough motivation to help him make the leap.

    And if it’s not, there’s always the leap back to Russia.