Andrew Ladd will be first test for Winnipeg signing their own players

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The Winnipeg Thrashjets will have to make some decisions on unrestricted free agents Freddy Meyer, Eric Boulton, and Radek Dvorak; they’ll also have to lock up Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, Rob Schremp, Anthony Stewart, Ben Maxwell, and Brett Festerling who are all restricted free agents this offseason. But the most important situation to watch is restricted free agent Andrew Ladd.

The two-time Stanley Cup champion Ladd, brought some much needed leadership to the locker room last season, after Don Waddell acquired him with Dustin Byfuglien during the Blackhawk’s fire sale last June. In addition to the leadership and earning the captaincy, he led the team with 29 goals, 9 power play goals and 59 points. By just about every measure, he was the most important player on the entire team. He had been in negotiations for a new contract, but were unable to nail down the final details. Bob McKenzie agrees re-signing Ladd could prove to be a bellwether moment in the franchise’s development.

“His deal with Atlanta came very close to getting done, but they couldn’t agree on some final terms,” McKenzie said. “Now that becomes the responsibility of Winnipeg’s front office. Ladd is an interesting case. He’s one year away from unrestricted free agency, and is currently a restricted free agent. He’s got a great arbitration case if he decides to go that route, and could do very well there.

“He can essentially decide if he wants to make a long-term commitment to the team now that it is in Winnipeg, and if he does that, it will be a wonderful way to pave the future. But if he decides he would rather play somewhere else, then that sets it off in the other direction.”

When the Jets were in Winnipeg the first time around, one of the major problems they had was that it was so difficult to attract top-tier free agents to Manitoba—and a problem Edmonton’s front office will tell you includes Alberta. Fans were reminded of the 15-year-old problem when Ilya Bryzgalov made his comments about Winnipeg; it looked like the Coyotes could possibly be moving back to the Peg. The strengthened Canadian dollar will help the franchise compete fiscally—but they’ll still need to find players who are willing to play in Winnipeg for the duration contract. No doubt there would be a culture shock for anyone coming from a market like Philadelphia, New York, or even Vancouver.

For his part, Ladd is saying all of the right things about the market, the fans, and the ongoing negotiations. Here’s what he told The Canadian Press in anticipation of the move to Winnipeg:

“It’s probably going to be bigger than most guys think. I think not having (NHL) hockey there for 15 years, it’s kind of built up and built up to the point where I’m sure (fans) are ready to blow the doors off the hinges and get this thing going.”

(snip)

“I think everyone wants to be able to play in Canada where they just have that passion for the game. There’s a little extra pressure and attention, but for me I like that part of it. You can definitely thrive on it and use it to your advantage.”

(snip)

(Ladd) doesn’t expect the move to have a major impact on contract negotiations.

In fact, he hopes agent J.P. Barry will be able to get back to the bargaining table, now that the relocation has been made official.

“It’s kind of been in limbo because we were negotiating towards the end of the year for a couple months and then with the ownership situation it’s kind of been stalled. As players, you’re not sure with new ownership coming in what they’re going to want to do and where you fit in or that sort of thing.

“We’re just kind of waiting to see what happens and get some answers on what’s going on.”

The first step for the NHL to be successful in Winnipeg is for the fans to put their money where their mouth is. The publicly stated goal of 13,000 season tickets (with 3-5 year commitments) will insure the team will be stable during the infancy of its rebirth. But once those initial commitments expire, it will be imperative for True North to ice a contender.

Market after market has proven that over time, attendance is invariably tied to the quality of the team on the ice. The Minnesota Wild sold games out for nearly a decade before the fans realized the quality of the product wasn’t top quality. Fans in Denver supported the Avalanche when they arrived from Quebec City and won a few Stanley Cups. But when the novelty wore off and the teams started to struggle in recent years, so have the numbers at the box office.

Locking up a player like Andrew Ladd, would be the first step towards putting a good team on the ice for years to come. For fans in Winnipeg, hopefully he’ll be the first of many players who choose to bring their talents to Manitoba.

Video: Calls go Penguins’ way early in Game 1; own goal plagues Predators

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However you feel about the context of each call, it’s tough to deny that some big decisions ended up going favorably early for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

To start, a would-be 1-0 goal by P.K. Subban was waved off thanks to Filip Forsberg being deemed offside. More on that here.

In a rare span, the Predators were whistled for two penalties during the same sequence in the first period, giving the Penguins a 5-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes. Pittsburgh started off the advantage a little rocky, but then Evgeni Malkin made it 1-0. (Video of that tally in the headline above.)

The controversy comes as Sidney Crosby seemed to get away with interference/elbow shortly before that goal was scored. That sequence will feed a conspiracy theory or two.

The Predators have managed to avoid tough stretches for much of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but things seemed to really escalate from there. The Penguins managed three goals in a staggering 4:11 of game time, with Nick Bonino putting a puck off Mattias Ekholm for a painful own goal, making it 3-0 as the first period concluded.

The Penguins seemed to take control of the game after that disallowed goal, adding to the argument that some combination of the decision and the slowdown helped turn the tide.

How will the Predators respond to this adversity in Game 1? Find out on NBC and via the stream below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Subban goal waved off hours after Bettman defends offside challenges

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The Nashville Predators were controlling the play early in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, showing little concern for the big stage of Game 1. It looked like that early edge would come with the reward of a P.K. Subban 1-0 goal.

(Subban had to feel that much more satisfied as he was being booed early and often by Penguins fans in Pittsburgh.)

But, alas, the dreaded goal review negated such a goal, as it was determined that Filip Forsberg was offside. You can watch the process in the video above, while this is a GIF of the moment in question.

As a reminder, Gary Bettman said all the right things about reviews working “exactly as they are intended to” mere hours ago, even as snarky folks make snarky jokes about a rapid contest being interrupted by replays that … might not entertain everyone.

Whether the NHL likes it or not, this will be a talking point for many.

Updated Stanley Cup Final lineups: Carl Hagelin, Colin Wilson out in Game 1

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PHT provided early looks at what the Nashville Predators’ and Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineups might look like, and those viewpoints ended up being mostly correct.

That’s especially true when it comes to the Penguins. As expected, Carl Hagelin will not suit up for the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Patric Hornqvist indeed returns while Jake Guentzel avoids a healthy scratch.

Here’s the lines that Pittsburgh listed on Twitter:

The Predators provide a surprise, however, as Colin Wilson is not in the mix. Instead, the Predators will have Craig Smith and Mike Fisher in the lineup.

Game 1 is just minutes from beginning. Check it out on NBC or stream it via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Daly addresses Voynov potentially returning to Kings

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An interesting development on Monday, prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final — following Gary Bettman’s state of the league address, deputy commissioner Bill Daly was asked about the possibility of former Kings d-man Slava Voynov returning to the NHL.

Voynov hasn’t played in L.A. since the ’14-15 campaign, when he was suspended indefinitely while facing domestic violence charges.

“If that was ever something that was proposed, we’re on record as saying that would require a proceeding before the commissioner,” Daly said, when asked about Voynov’s possible return.

When asked if Voynov had “served his time,” Daly offered the following:

“Ultimately that’s not my decision, that’ll be Gary’s decision.

“I don’t want to speculate either on what that might be. I’ve heard from time to time that he might have an interest in coming back to the National Hockey League, but that hasn’t advanced in any material way to this point.

“So let’s wait and see if it happens.”

The Voynov topic arose when a reporter asked Daly about the league’s stance, on the understanding that “at one point, the Kings were considering trying to bring [Voynov] back.”

That came on the heels of a report from John Hoven of Mayor’s Manor, who said Kings management and scouts had seen Voynov play “multiple times” this season.

In July of 2015, Voynov pleaded no contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Months later, he returned to his native Russia and signed a three-year pact with SKA Saint Petersburg.

The move freed L.A. from Voynov’s $4.16 million average annual cap hit. Per The OC Register, Voynov’s decision to “self-depart” the U.S. may have kept the door open for a return to North America at some point in the future.

In October, Team Russia tried to include Voynov on its active roster for the World Cup of Hockey, claiming it was in negotiations with the league on the matter. The NHL eventually ruled him ineligible — “our position was the NHL suspension disqualified him,” Daly explained — and he was eventually replaced by Bolts blueliner Nikita Nesterov.