Report: Seattle building a new arena to lure hockey team?

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There is a report out of Seattle that Chicago businessman Don Levin has plans to build an arena on the Eastside of Seattle to house a potential NHL team. The business group has not decided on a specific location, nor have they identified a potential NHL franchise—but they have a few prospective locations in the greater Seattle area.  The same report states that Levin is headed to Seattle to check out a few of the possible sites for himself.

Don Levin is a name that may sound familiar to sports fans in the Chicagoland area since he’s currently the owner of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Unfortunately, the last time we heard about a Chicago businessman getting involved with the NHL, it ended with a frustrated Matthew Hulsizer withdrawing from the Coyotes’ ownership nightmare. Everyone hopes this is a better situation.

KIRO7 in Seattle has the scoop:

“KIRO 7 has confirmed, from various highly placed government and community sources, that discussions are in the works to build an arena on the Eastside that would house a potential NHL team, with the ability to transform the venue into a basketball arena, and bring NBA basketball back to the greater Seattle area.

KIRO 7 sources indicate that Chicago businessman Don Levin has been in town recently meeting with various stakeholders about the new arena.

By looking to build a new arena in a hockey-less market, the scavengers will start looking at struggling NHL franchise around North America. Obviously, the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation is still in flux with no owners, nor resolution in sight. The Dallas Stars are desperately looking for an owner, but the metroplex has proven to be a viable hockey market ever since they landed in Texas in 1993. The same goes for the Blues ownership situation and the St. Louis market. Both areas have proven to have rabid fanbases when their team has a fighting chance on the ice.

In ways, this situation sounds strikingly similar to the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Anschutz Entertainment Group built the Sprint Center in hopes of luring the Penguins (or later the Islanders) to Missouri when they broke ground in 2005. They’ve been looking for a permanent NHL or NBA tenant since they officially opened the doors in 2007.

For people who want Seattle to become a viable contender for a relocating/expansion franchise, a new arena is the first step towards hope. The Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League used to call Key Arena home, but just because it was acceptable for a WHL team doesn’t mean it would work for an NHL team. The NBA made a strong statement about Key Arena when the Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City—due in large part to concerns about the arena.

People can debate whether Seattle would be a viable market for a future NHL team, but there’s no question that the market is certainly in the discussion. Right now, the two biggest problems facing the arena are: they don’t have a suitable arena and there isn’t an available team. If Levin follows through with a state-of-the-art arena on the Eastside, he’ll provide a solution to the first part of that equation.

As for luring an NHL team? That part isn’t quite as easy. Just ask Jim Balsillie.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eihel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least development into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.

After making NHL debut, Jones re-ups with Isles

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One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.

Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.

Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.

Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.

With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.

Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.