Former Winnipeg Jet Luciano Borsato believes a new team can work in Winnipeg

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In all the hustle and bustle surrounding the potential relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg one of the debates raging on centers around whether or not the NHL can work there this time around. After all, the financial climate now is quite a bit different in 2011 than it was in 1996 when the Winnipeg Jets left Manitoba, Canada for Phoenix, Arizona.

While that aspect can be debated as to whether or not Winnipeg NHL fans will shell out the bucks necessary to keep a team fat and happy these days, one aspect that doesn’t seem to be questioned very much is how the fans will take to a new team. While you can talk to any number of fans in Winnipeg and get euphoric statements confirming they’ll love their potential new franchise, talking to one former Jets player helps you really believe that’ll be the case.

Luciano Borsato played for the Winnipeg Jets for five seasons in the 1990’s before moving on to play in Germany the season when the Jets departed for Phoenix. Now retired from hockey and working as an online marketer, the Canadian-born Clarkson University graduate believes that if the NHL returns to Winnipeg it will be a huge success based on how great it was while he was there.

“I have fond memories of Winnipeg. Like most Canadian kids, playing in a Canadian NHL city was a dream for me. Winnipeggers loved the team and supported us enthusiastically — the playoff white-outs with over 16,000 fans showing their unity all dressed in white would send shivers down your spine,” Borsato said.

“I hope they create that same atmosphere for every game during the regular season as well, as it was a great feeling for the players to see that support. But more than just that, I actually got to know many fans and families in the city and would be invited to their homes, restaurants and businesses regularly. That was my most personal impression of Winnipeg.”

That sort of intimate setting in Winnipeg might give some players reason to pause. After all, Winnipeg is a small city with a population between 600,000 and 700,000 people. When you compare that to Canadian cities like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver it’s minuscule. Compared to a similar NHL city like Edmonton and it’s right on par.

Can it work though? Borsato thinks that with the way the NHL is set up these days it can.

“Yes, I think it can work, under certain conditions. The biggest factor would be finding wealthy owners willing to not only bring the team to Winnipeg, but be prepared to absorb losses over the years. That seems to have been accomplished with the Thomson family. Due to the fluctuations in the floor of the salary cap since it was introduced, this would be the most important factor from a new owner’s perspective,” Borsato says.

In 2005, the first salary cap was $39 million with the salary floor set just over $21 million. This season, the cap is $59.4 million, with the floor now doubled to $43.4 million. Meanwhile, next season it’s believed that the salary cap will go up over $62 million and bring the floor up once again. With the salary cap tied to revenues it’s a good sign for the league to see they can keep juicing the cap. On the downside, all teams have to spend more money. Having a deep pocketed owner helps solve these issues. As for Winnipeg itself, Borsato’s sold on the fans and the market.

“From what I’ve read, Winnipeg is doing quite well economically and we all hope it continues. With the solid new fan base from the Moose and the excitement of the NHL returning, I’d like to think a new NHL team would be a great catalyst for the city.”

With the serious talk out of the way, the one lingering major debate left hinges on what to call the potential new Winnipeg franchise. We asked Borsato if he’d like to see the Jets name be resurrected or should the new franchise carve its own identity separate from the Jets legacy. His thoughts are most intriguing.

“Personally, yes. It’s nice to say you played in a city and for a team that is currently in the NHL. Having said that, the original Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes franchise would be a separate entity from a modern Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg franchise, with a different set of records, players, etc. As a business, it would make sense for a new name to be chosen, but I, and most of the former players, would be more than happy to see the Jets name back.”

We’ll find out in the coming days and weeks whether or not the new Winnipeg team will be the Jets or the Moose or any number of other possible names, but one thing’s for sure the memories of the Jets and the run they had originally in Winnipeg has everyone remembering the way it used to be fondly.

Coyotes GM ‘called right away’ on Hamonic

Don Maloney
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You can add Arizona to the list of teams that tried to get in on the Travis Hamonic sweepstakes.

“[He’s] a talented player,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said, per the Arizona Republic. “We certainly called right away, but we do not have a good fit for them right now.

“That’s the bottom line. They’re looking for a ready-made complement player.”

Hamonic, who requested a trade out of New York, is garnering plenty of interest across the league. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported five clubs — Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado and Minnesota — were in the mix, with Sportsnet floating potential trade chips like the Jets’ Jacob Trouba, and the Flames’ T.J. Brodie.

It’s unsurprising the Coyotes didn’t have a fit for Isles GM Garth Snow.

It’s hard to imagine — nearly impossible, really — to think Oliver Ekman-Larsson would be on the move, and the rest of the Arizona defense is comprised of unheralded youngsters (Michael Stone, Connor Murphy) or grizzled vets (Nicklas Grossmann, Zbynek Michalek).

But Maloney’s remarks are still noteworthy, because he more we hear about the Hamonic situation, the clearer the asking price gets.

Related: Hamonic willing to finish season with Isles

Star struck: Sens chase Niemi after three goals on nine shots (Update: And now he’s back)

Milan Michalek, Antti Niemi
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Bet Antti Niemi misses playing Buffalo.

Niemi, who stopped 46 of 47 shots in back-to-back wins over the Sabres last week, was hooked during Tuesday’s game against the Senators after allowing three goals on nine shots.

In Niemi’s defense, tonight’s goals weren’t exactly his fault.

John Klingberg coughed up the puck badly on Bobby Ryan‘s opening tally…

And on Ottawa’s second goal, Jyrki Jokipakka lost a board battle moments before Milan Michalek snapped one home:

The Sens’ third marker also came on a turnover.

Update: Well, this is quite the night for Dallas netminders. Kari Lehtonen replaced Niemi, allowed a goal, then got hurt in this collision with Klingberg, which forced him from the game and Niemi back into action.

Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

“I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

“I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

Robin Lehner
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Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”