Report: Atlanta Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg is a done deal (Updated with denials)

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The Atlanta Thrashers will indeed move to Winnipeg. That’s the report from Stephen Brunt of The Globe & Mail, although many people are denying it … including NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

If this report is accurate after all, then True North Sports and Entertainment succeeded in their goal of bringing an NHL team back to the former home city of the Winnipeg Jets. Brunt reports that an official announcement will be made on Tuesday and that Bettman will travel to Winnipeg to hold a press conference on that matter. That report also indicates that True North targeted the Thrashers all along, even though the Phoenix Coyotes grabbed most of the focus regarding relocation.

If Brunt’s report is true, there won’t be much suspense about the NHL Board of Governors approving the sale since they already “quietly approved the sale and transfer of the team” months ago.

The relocated Thrashers team would play at the MTS Centre, the current home of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. It’s unclear if the team’s mascot will change, although rumors indicate that True North would prefer not to use “Thrashers.”

Update: To little surprise, many outlets are reporting denials to this original report. TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are among the respected reporters who said it isn’t official. Jeff Marek spoke with True North, who denied the report.

Another update: There’s at least one person backing up Brunt’s report: Nick Kypreos confirmed that the deal is done.

OK, so we know that the relocation is far from official, but let’s take a quick big picture look at the impact of the move if it does happen.

One second chance comes to an end while another begins …

We’ll get deeper into the bigger issues when (or if) this becomes official, but the interesting thing about this news is that it involves two markets getting second chances to make an NHL team work.

The city of Atlanta already saw one NHL team relocate to another market as the Atlanta Flames became the Calgary Flames in 1980. Even if people blame faulty ownership in both situations, it’s tough to imagine the city getting another NHL franchise anytime soon. Meanwhile, Winnipeg lost the Jets in 1996 when the team left for Phoenix to become the Coyotes during a tough time for the Canadian dollar.

Despite similar end results, the two markets are very different. Atlanta is a large American city that might not take to hockey off the bat while Winnipeg is a Canadian market that hopes to make up for its relatively small market with sheer puck passion. Ultimately, my guess is that the team’s new ownership and the quality of the city’s support will determine if this move will be a success. (If it actually happens, of course.)

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Again, we’ll keep an eye on any reports that might refute Brunt’s piece, but the smart money is on this being true. Stay tuned for more news and analysis in the near future.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.

Calgary mayor: ‘Errors of omission’ in Flames arena proposal

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On Thursday, the Calgary Flames released a report claiming they were prepared to contribute $275 million for a new arena, with additional funding — in the ball park of $225 million — from a Community Revitalization Levy.

On Friday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi responded to the proposal and the events of yesterday.

“I wouldn’t say dishonesty. I would, however, say that there are perhaps some errors of omission,” Nenshi told reporters, according to Global Calgary, when asked if there had been a level of dishonesty from the Flames with their proposal.

The Flames not only released a report with financial details to their website, but they also took out ads in local newspapers. Nenshi took issue with the details the Flames released yesterday.

“What was in that ad was not actually what the last deal on the table with the city was,” he said.

“For example, yesterday you saw that the Flames’ owners are claiming that they’re putting $275 million up front. Makes it sound like a (check) is being put on the table. Certainly that has not been discussed. That would’ve really changed things had that been the discussion.

“The discussion, the last I saw, was the Flames were putting $100 million in and the rest would be a ticket tax, which they wanted the city to take out, to get for and to front. I’m not quite sure how that equals the Flames putting in money up front.”

Yesterday, the Flames added in their report that, after two years of discussions with the city about a new arena, they will no longer pursue a new arena in Calgary.

The Flames currently play at the Saddledome, which is now 34 years old.