Charles Wang: If arena referendum doesn’t pass he’s not trying to develop area anymore

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For whatever you think about Islanders owner Charles Wang, there’s one thing you cannot question about his leadership of the team. Wang’s dedication to trying to do things to improve the team in the face of a host of problems has been tireless. While it’s easy to pick on the monstrous contracts he’s given out in the past to Alexei Yashin and Rick DiPietro and how the team has done under his watch since buying the Islanders back in 2000, he’s at least had his heart in the right place.

Wang has tried over the years to get a new arena project going on Long Island to build a new facility for the Islanders. Nassau Coliseum is currently the second oldest arena in the league (just behind Madison Square Garden that’s being renovated) and it’s widely described as being the worst current venue in the NHL. Wang tried to fix things by himself with his Lighthouse Project but the Town of Hempstead repeatedly shot down his plans for that.

Now, with a major vote coming up on Long Island for taxpayers to decide whether or not they want their tax money to pay for a new arena and minor league baseball stadium, Wang has made it known that if the referendum doesn’t get passed and the plans are not approved, he’s no longer going to try and develop the Nassau Coliseum area opening things up to a questionable future for the Islanders on Long Island when the lease at the coliseum runs out in 2015.

New York Newsday’s Ted Phillips has the story from the excitable Islanders owner.

Wang said the lease he negotiated with Mangano is “plan A” and there is no plan B.

“We’re asking people to approve the deal we have,” he said. “You can always tweak this, do this, so forth . . . It’s like anything else. You have a whole mix of things where you negotiate a business deal. Some of which you may love and some of which you may not like as much, but you come up and you do the deal then.”

Wang sees himself as better positioned because the clock is ticking on the current lease.

“The biggest asset a team has . . . is an expiring lease,” he said.

Wang wouldn’t say whether he was in talks about relocating if the referendum fails.

It’s a desperate time for the Islanders fans. Getting a new arena is something most every team in the NHL has seen over the last ten years. That doesn’t make it their right to get a new one, but if there’s a team that needs it, it’s the Islanders. Nassau Coliseum is described as “the mausoleum” by many for its dreary lighting and seemingly antiquated set up.

Making things more desperate for the Isles and their fans is the talk of relocation. With sites like Quebec City and Seattle being talked a lot about potential places to move and Kansas City having an arena ready and waiting to be received by any major sports team, the possibilities are there. Of course, moving a team with the kind of history the Isles have would be virtually criminal and it’s something Wang is trying desperately to avoid doing down the road.

That said, hockey’s a business and if Wang cannot get any of his plans to try and improve things for his team he’s got every right to try and find a way to make things better by himself. He’s done that with his Lighthouse Project plans that were foiled and, down the road, he could do that with a possible relocation bid. That would be the ultimate desperation move and that’s what makes the Islanders August 1 vote all the more important to the future of the team in New York.

Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

For example…

Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

Their production together can not be understated.

Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

No word yet on financials for either guy.

Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.