Doug Creighton, Peter McCullough

Winnipeg mayor doubts the Coyotes will move; Thrashers might relocate there instead

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Many people in the hockey world wondered if the Coyotes played their final game in Phoenix when the Detroit Red Wings completed their first round sweep. In fact, the very premise prompted a steady stream of cruel jokes on Twitter.

While relocation is still a legitimate possibility amid the troubling Coyotes sale situation, it doesn’t take an expert to notice that the NHL and City of Glendale are doing the best they can to avoid relocation. Their best efforts might not overcome the threat of a lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute, but the bottom line is that more money might be lost if the Coyotes leave than if they stay.

(That’s a sad sentence, but sometimes sporting reality is pretty depressing.)

There’s at least one rather significant party who thinks that the Coyotes will stay put. That would be Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz, who believes that the hockey-hungry city should look for a different team to bring the NHL back to the ‘Peg. Here are his comments via the Winnipeg Sun.

“Do I believe the Coyotes are coming to Winnipeg? My answer would be no,” Katz said. “I believe the Coyotes will stay in Phoenix. I happen to know some of the commitments that were made when they went there, and there were commitments that, if they were not fulfilled, there could easily be a lawsuit.”

If you believe Katz, then the Coyotes sale faces a lose-lose scenario: a possible lawsuit whether they stay or go. Both the NHL and Goldwater Institute’s people seemed confused by the claims Katz made about the possibility of a lawsuit if the Coyotes relocate, though.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said he didn’t know what commitments Katz might be talking about.

“I can’t say that I know what he is referring to,” Daly said via e-mail Wednesday.

Nick Dranias, constitutional policy director for the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, a taxpayer watchdog group trying to block the Coyotes’ sale to would-be buyer Matthew Hulsizer, was equally baffled by Katz’s claim.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Dranias said. “If he’s talking about obligations or agreements that were reached before the Hulsizer deal, that would have come out during bankruptcy.”

Even if Katz was incorrect in his claims that a lawsuit would be a possibility, his comments underscore the notion that the Atlanta Thrashers might be a strong Plan B for Winnipeg. Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press claims that the Atlanta Spirit ownership group is desperate to sell the Thrashers after failing to do so with a local group for years. (Regardless of former MLB pitcher Tom Glavine’s best efforts, it seems.)

Despite some reasonable possible other cities for relocation (Kansas City’s cushy arena deal comes to mind), Lawless writes that it would be difficult for the Thrashers to relocate to any other market than Winnipeg with such a short window between the sale and the start of the 2011-12 season in October.

In other words, all signs point to Winnipeg being the only relocation option for both the Thrashers and Coyotes. So the Atlanta Spirit must wait and see if the Coyotes remain in Arizona before they can make their move.

Keep in mind all of this talk is based on speculation from unnamed sources, so there might be a few factors that are a bit based on conjecture rather than facts. Either way, the fate of two troubled franchises – not to mention the puck-based future for one former NHL city – hangs in the balance over the next weeks/months, so we’ll keep you informed as this messy picture begins to come into focus.

Laine’s big week gets Jets back into playoff race

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 13: Patrik Laine #29, playing his first NHL game, of the Winnipeg Jets celebrates scoring his first NHL goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during NHL action on October 22, 2016 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At top is Mathieu Perreault #85 of the Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Patrik Laine is the NHL’s first star of the week.

In four games, the Winnipeg rookie scored five goals to help the Jets to a 3-0-1 record and propel them back into the playoff race.

Laine also had three assists. With eight points total, he beat out Toronto’s Nazem Kadri and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the second and third stars of the week, respectively.

From the NHL:

[Laine] recorded his third career hat trick, including the winning goal, in a 5-2 triumph over the Dallas Stars Feb. 14. In doing so, Laine became the first player in NHL history to register three hat tricks before his 19th birthday as well as the first rookie to collect three hat tricks in one season since 1992-93. He scored again in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Feb. 16. Laine then finished the week with consecutive multi-point efforts, notching 1-1—2 in a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Feb. 18 and two assists in a 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators Feb. 19. The 18-year-old Tampere, Finland, native paces rookies with 52 points in 54 games this season and also shares third place in the entire NHL – as well as the rookie lead – with 28 goals.

The Jets are now only one point back of Calgary for the second wild-card spot in the West; however, the Flames do hold three games in hand.

Streaking Blues get Stastny back tonight

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 06:  Paul Stastny #26 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on December 6, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. The Blues defeated the Islanders 6-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s loss to Buffalo notwithstanding, St. Louis has been on fire lately under new head coach Mike Yeo. The Blues are 7-2 in their last nine, and will get a big piece of the lineup back this evening when they host Florida at Scottrade.

Paul Statsny, who’s missed the last four games with a lower-body injury, will draw in for the first time since Feb. 9, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac.

What’s more, Stastny will be immediately reunited on the club’s top line between Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Stastny had been on fire since the dismissal of former head coach Ken Hitchcock, racking up six points over his last five games played (in which the Blues went 4-1-0).

The 31-year-old currently sits fourth on the team in assists and points, while averaging 19:25 TOI per night, so he’s clearly a big part of the St. Louis attack. And based on his form prior to getting hurt, it was clear things were clicking with Steen and Tarasenko — which should make for an exciting test tonight against the red-hot Panthers.

Sens recall pair of forwards in wake of multiple injuries

Ottawa Senators' Mark Stone (61) lies injured on the ice after being hit hard by Winnipeg Jets' Jacob Trouba (not shown) during third period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, Sunday Feb. 19, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The Ottawa Senators have called up some reinforcements from the AHL.

Forwards Casey Bailey and Max McCormick are on their way to the big club, in the wake of Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Jets that saw Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Tommy Wingels all leave with injuries.

The Sens also went into yesterday’s game without winger Bobby Ryan, who’s out indefinitely with a hand injury.

No word yet on the status of Hoffman, Stone, or Wingels, but head coach Guy Boucher wasn’t all that optimistic yesterday.

“It doesn’t look good,” Boucher told reporters. “We have to wait until tomorrow to be clear and precise but right now we could be losing quite a few guys.”

The Sens kick off a four-game road trip tomorrow in New Jersey. They currently sit second in the Atlantic Division, but not that far ahead of Boston, Toronto, and Florida.

Related: Jacob Trouba will have a hearing for head shot on Mark Stone

Kings’ Robitaille named chairman of German League club (Updated)

2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final – Game Six
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Kings legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille has added a new role to his front office portfolio.

Robitaille, currently serving as L.A.’s president of business operations, has been named as the chairman of Eisbaren Berlin, one of the most storied clubs in Germany’s top league, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

Berlin is owned by the Anschutz Entertainment Group, the same outfit that owns the Kings. The two clubs have a fairly long history with each other, though this Robitaille appointment is part of what sounds like the biggest cooperative initiative to date.

UPDATE: The Kings have confirmed the development, with added information…

The Los Angeles Kings will now oversee all operations of Berlin Eisbaren Hockey, it was announced today at a news conference at Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Eisbaren Berlin of the German Ice Hockey League and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League are owned and operated by AEG Sports, a division of the Anschutz Entertainment Group. The LA Kings will now begin leading all hockey operations and administrative matters, directing the day-to-day leadership of Managing Director Peter John Lee.

“The results the last few years in Berlin have not been the championship standards that we all expect,” said Robitaille.  “It became clear that our relationship needs to go beyond collaboration and move to a complete connection to ensure the team and organization has what it needs to return this club to the type of team our fans expect and have demonstrated passionate support for.”

From the Eisbaren Berlin website (translated):

“This is an important day for the polar bears Berlin,” said Eisbären CEO Peter John Lee. We have been interacting with Luc Robitaille and LA Kings for a long time. In the new constellation we have the leadership of the LA Kings directly on board the polar bears, so we can work even more intensively to turn the polar bears Berlin into a championship team again.”

(At this time, probably worth noting the team’s nickname translates to polar bears.)

Former Kings farmhand Alex Roach currently plays for Berlin, and the team is coached by Robitaille’s former teammate in Detroit, Uwe Krupp.