Nashville Predators ownership group gives William 'Boots' Del Biaggio the boot

predatorslogo.gifThe history of sports is littered with swaggering, more-talk-than-walk owners, especially in the not-always-financially-stable NHL. Old money guys might not be the most PR-savvy or exciting, but aside from the occasional breakthrough in the form of Mark Cuban, most of the attention-seekers tend to fall on their faces (see: the Tampa Bay Lightning’s former owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie).

So it must come as quite a relief to the Nashville Predators (and their fans) to rid their franchise of William “Boots” Del  Baggio. The team released word that their former partial owner is now completely out of the picture.

Nashville Predators Chairman Tom Cigarran announced today that the Predators ownership group has completed the purchase of the franchise ownership shares previously held by Forecheck Investments, LLC (William “Boots” Del Biaggio previously owned 83% of Forecheck Investments).

The transaction has been approved by all the necessary parties, including the National Hockey League and the Metro Nashville Sports Authority. As a result of the transaction, the local ownership group now owns more than 95% of the franchise ownership shares.

“This is a significant step for the Predators franchise on several levels,” Cigarran said. “First and foremost, it strengthens our franchise’s financial position and eliminates a significant future liability. In doing so, it closes the book on a distraction and allows the Predators and fans to move forward, focusing on what matters most – putting the best possible team on the ice and creating the best possible in-arena atmosphere and entertainment experience. Also, while the franchise was initially known as Nashville’s team because it was created here in Music City, this transaction reinforces that theme as more than 95% of the ownership shares are now held by local residents.”

Considering the team’s need to lay down local roots, it’s great to hear that the team is now 95 percent locally owned. While they are years away from being one of the league’s biggest spending teams (if they ever get to the level), you have to imagine that stable ownership could help the team go from scrappy, defensive-minded overachievers to a club that might actually be able to get past the first round of the playoffs.

The timing is right, too, when you look at the fact that their one true star Shea Weber will be a restricted free agent after next season. Sometimes blue chip players want a stable organization – not just gobs of money – to stay with a team, so this could make a big impact on Weber’s opinion of the club.

And who knows, they might be able to land promising free agents in the future, too.

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    Coyotes add MacLean and Allen to coaching staff

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    John MacLean will, indeed, be an assistant coach on Rick Tocchet’s staff in Arizona, as reported yesterday.

    So too will Scott Allen.

    “We are very pleased to have John and Scott join the Coyotes organization,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka in a release. “Both individuals bring a wealth of hockey knowledge and coaching experience to our team and we are confident that they will be great additions to Head Coach Rick Tocchet’s staff.”

    MacLean — who had a short, unsuccessful stint as head coach of the New Jersey Devils in 2010 — was last behind an NHL bench as an assistant on Kirk Muller’s staff in Carolina from 2011-14.

    Allen spent last season as an assistant in Florida, before being let go to make way for Bob Boughner’s new staff.

    The Coyotes also announced Mike Van Ryn as the new head coach of their AHL affiliate in Tucson. Van Ryn will be assisted by John Slaney and Steve Potvin.

    Mark Lamb, last year’s head coach in Tucson, and Mark Hardy, Lamb’s assistant, will not be back.

    Lamb was only hired a year ago; however, he got the job thanks in part to a previous working relationship with Dave Tippett. So it’s no surprise to hear Lamb won’t be back — especially after the Roadrunners missed the playoffs.

    Related: John MacLean could reportedly join Tocchet’s coaching staff in Arizona

    Welcome Nick Holden to the trade rumor mill

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    Last summer, when Nick Holden was traded from Colorado to the Rangers, Patrick Roy called Alain Vigneault to say, “You just got one of my better defensemen.”

    Now it seems that Holden may be on the trading block again.

    From the New York Post, in the wake of Mika Zibanejad‘s contract extension:

    The Blueshirts are projected to start the season with just $445,556 of cap space if they carry eight defensemen (including Alexei Bereglazov) and 14 forwards (including Andersson and Boo Nieves with Jesper Fast on IR). The Rangers are expected to attempt to deal defenseman Nick Holden ($1.65 million) in order to bulk up in the middle, if possible.

    Holden played 80 games for the Rangers last season, scoring 11 goals with 23 assists. The 30-year-old is signed for one more year before he can become an unrestricted free agent.

    If Holden is traded, the Rangers could go into next season with a top four of Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brendan Smith and Brady Skjei. That would leave Marc Staal, Bereglazov, Anthony DeAngelo, and perhaps even Neal Pionk to fight for minutes on the bottom pairing.

    What’s unclear is Holden’s value on the trade market. After all, the Rangers only gave up a fourth-round draft pick to get him from Colorado. Has his value risen significantly since?

    Johnny Hockey: ‘I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong’

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    Johnny Gaudreau made headlines last week when he went on Philadelphia radio and said it would be “sweet” to play for the Flyers one day.

    Gaudreau — a South Jersey native who grew up cheering for the Flyers, but currently stars for the Calgary Flames — has now been offered a chance to clarify a few things about that interview.

    “I think if you ask any player in the NHL if they’d like to play in their hometown at some point they’d all say it would be pretty sweet,” Gaudreau told the Courier-Post in a Q&A. “You’ve got friends, you’ve got family, you’ve got kids you went to school with, you’ve got teachers, you name it. You’ve got people that will be supporting you. The people support me down here, like it’s crazy down here. I’m just really fortunate they follow me up in Calgary.

    “I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great city and they’re so passionate about our team. It’s a real hockey city. I really enjoy it up there, don’t get me wrong, but I think if you ask any player if he wants to play in his hometown they’d say it would be pretty cool to do that.

    “I’ve still got five more years on my contract and who knows…if we’re playing well up here in Calgary I could end up staying another four or five years there because I love the city so much. It’s tough to have all those articles come out when it’s something so small, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

    It’s certainly possible that Gaudreau opts to explore unrestricted free agency when his contract expires. But he doesn’t have that option until 2022.

    For now, Gaudreau’s excited about the next few years in Calgary, where the Flames are trending the right way, possibly soon into legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

    Related: Stability, Stanley Cup aspirations ‘a breath of fresh air’ for Mike Smith

    Matt Murray discusses the ‘new look’ Penguins

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    Save for the loss of Ben Lovejoy, the Pittsburgh Penguins of 2016-17 looked a heck of a lot like the Penguins of 2015-16.

    Both those teams won the Stanley Cup, of course.

    But the Pens of 2017-18, while still boasting superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, will have to attempt a three-peat without some key pieces from the 2017 run.

    Gone are Marc-Andre Fleury, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley, and Ron Hainsey, the latter of whom proved a savvy pickup by GM Jim Rutherford at the trade deadline.

    It’s also possible that Matt Cullen opts for retirement.

    True, the Penguins added Matt Hunwick in free agency, and they don’t expect to be without Kris Letang again next spring.

    But for goalie Matt Murray, winning it all in 2018 seems a larger challenge.

    “Obviously it’s not easy to win at all in this league, especially with the salary cap and the turnover that teams go through. Last year we were lucky that we didn’t lose too many guys and we had a lot of the same guys come back,” Murray told SooToday.com.

    “This year it’s a little bit different. We lost some key pieces and we’re going to have a new look going into this season. But I think we’ve added some key pieces as well and I think we’re in really good shape. Of course it’s going to be difficult, but I think if there’s a team that can do it, we can do it.”

    For any team that loses important players, the key to success is usually found in the organization’s youth. Enter forwards Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese. If those two can become contributors by the playoffs, it would sure help.

    Rutherford will also have to come through by finding a new third-line center. That’s no easy task given the importance of the position. Bonino was a tremendous bargain for the Pens, but he’s in Nashville now.

    Related: Pens can’t ‘panic’ to replace Bonino