Your New York Islanders August 1 referendum primer

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As you may know, tomorrow is a big day for the future of the New York Islanders, Nassau County and the NHL overall. Voters will get the chance to vote for or against a referendum to build a new arena to eventually replace the decrepit Nassau Coliseum, which at this point seems like a mandatory measure for the team to be economically sustainable.

We already shared the fact that the Islanders’ two regional rivals shared their support for people to vote “yes” on the referendum, with the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers urging fans and those indifferent to hockey to approve the deal. According to various sources, it appears that the bottom-line cost of the $400 million referendum for voters could be anywhere between $58 and $100 per household (depending on who you ask and if the referendum goes through, that is).

It’s plausible that we’ll have a little more material regarding the building tension and other facets of the referendum between now and the big Monday, August 1 voting, but here’s an extensive collection of some of the opinions and retrospectives regarding that pivotal polling.

New York Newsday’s editorial staff voiced their tentative approval for voting yes.

Nassau County is too populous, too prosperous and too proud to become a place with no significant entertainment venue and no big-time sports team. And it’s too tentatively perched between paths of progress and decline to let a crumbling Coliseum and the flight of the New York Islanders pull it into the pit.

Meanwhile, George Vecsey of the New York Times talks about some of the misgivings of people who simply might not be able to get out to vote anyway.

Life is less hopeful now since the days of Smitty and Potvin. People work two jobs, sit in traffic, suffer the Long Island Railroad, and brood about taxes and budget cuts in their school districts. Skilled workers who fix things at our house muse about moving out of state, and good luck to that. Overpriced homes sit on the market; young people rent or settle for less; the county’s finances are currently under the review of a state oversight board. Does this sound like a county that should be skittering deeper onto the thin ice of hockey finances?

Chris Botta puts together a plus/minus tally for the referendum, including this rather amusing takedown of Billy Joel.

Minus: Point Blank has learned that Billy Joel, who cashed in at the Coliseum for more than a generation, has so far decided to not be involved in the new arena issue because he was concerned about the “controversy.” In the last twenty years – unlike contemporaries such as Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Jackson Browne, Joel has not produced any new rock music. He has not taken a stand on anything except repackaging his greatest hits and making a fortune playing nostalgia concerts. Hey Piano Man, grow a pair.

Craig Custance points out that this isn’t just a big vote for the Islanders and its community, either.

This isn’t just a big vote for Islanders fans, it’s a big vote for hockey fans in Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City, Hamilton, Ont., or any other place hoping to one day lure an NHL team like Winnipeg successfully did in landing the Thrashers this year.

Forbes’ Tom Van Riper wonders if a vote for “no” would really guarantee that the team would leave while Larry Brooks brings up an interesting idea: what if the New Jersey Nets owner decides to move the Islanders to Brooklyn if the team needs to relocate?

It stands to reason that [Mikhail] Prokhorov would be interested in acquiring a hockey team that would account for 44-60 dates a season to fill the arena if Wang puts the Islanders on the market.

For a little more reading on the matter, Grantland’s Katie Baker runs down the history of the old Nassau Coliseum while Lighthouse Hockey tackles what locals should wear on Monday. Stay with PHT for information updates and more on the August 1 referendum.

Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

/waits

Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.

Hjalmarsson shocked by Blackhawks trade, but Coyotes could improve soon

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Who could blame Niklas Hjalmarsson for being surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks traded him? The move blindsided … well, just about everyone outside of the Blackhawks organization, after all.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to that thought,” Hjalmarsson said, according to the Arizona Republic. “At the same time, I’m trying to always be a positive guy.”

Indeed, the 30-year-old defenseman did his best to say all the right things about the Arizona Coyotes, praising a roster that includes “a lot of young and promising players.”

MORE on the trade here

Described by some as the NHL’s best pure defensive defenseman, Hjalmarsson also gives the Coyotes good reason to be excited by a blueline that’s suddenly quite competitive. Consider the quartet that GM John Chayka helped assemble:

Hjalmarsson: An often-underrated part of the Blackhawks’ run. Consider some of the praise he received even before this move was made.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson: One of the league’s best-kept secrets, “OEL” ranks as one of the most dangerous scoring defensemen. At 25, he’s still deep in his prime.

Alex Goligoski: When you consider the Dallas Stars’ lost 2016-17 season, don’t dismiss the absence of “Gogo.” He might not be perfect, but the 31-year-old is the sort of puck-mover you need to excel in the modern game.

Jakob Chychrun: At 19, he’s already getting reps at the NHL level. The Coyotes could pair him with a veteran and watch him grow.

***

When you look at those four, in particular, it’s easier to see Hjalmarsson’s excitement as more than just lip service. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Coyotes also added Derek Stepan, another sign that this franchise is taking the next step after absorbing other franchises’ problem contracts in the likes of Dave Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk’s last year.

Granted, it will still be an adjustment, as the Coyotes are likely aiming for “respectable” while anything less that a deep run was unacceptable for the Blackhawks.

Still, Hjalmarsson has plenty of power to make this move more palatable than it may have initially seemed.

And, hey, who would blame him for circling Oct. 21 on his calendar?

Report: Coyotes to talk to Todd Nelson about coaching vacancy

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The Arizona Coyotes had a somewhat unexpected shakeup this past week when the team and long-time head coach Dave Tippett mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons together.

The search for a replacement began immediately and according to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal the Coyotes will be speaking to former Oilers coach Todd Nelson about the vacancy.

Nelson spent 51 games behind the Oilers bench during the 2014-15 season replacing Dallas Eakins. Nelson was replaced at the conclusion of that season by former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan. While his NHL head coaching experience is limited to that brief time in Edmonton, he has an extensive track record in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton’s top farm team) and currently the Grand Rapids Griffins (the Detroit Red Wings’ top farm team).

He has spent the past two seasons in Grand Rapids — replacing Jeff Blashill after he was promoted to the Detroit job — and has had a ton of success, leading the team to the Calder Cup this past season.

Predators won’t trade defense for forward help

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After losing James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this past week the Nashville Predators have a pretty glaring hole in their top-six that is going to need to be addressed. Along with that, captain Mike Fisher is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is also considering retirement.

Because of those two developments general manager David Poile has made adding a top-six forward a priority for this summer, and he certainly has the salary cap space to get something done.

One thing he is not going to do, however, is trade one of his defensemen to find that help up front.

“We’ve traded enough defensemen in my recent history,” Poile said on Saturday, via the Tennessean. “I think everybody would be pretty much on the same page that our defense drives our team and our corps is as good as any in the league. We will not be touching our defense in the near future here.”

Over the past two years Poile has traded Shea Weber and Seth Jones off of his blue line but has still managed to assemble the NHL’s best defense. The quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm is so good that Poile made sure to protect all four of them in the expansion draft and leave Neal — a consistent 25-to 30-goal scorer signed for one more year on a pretty good contract — exposed for Vegas to take.

Without dealing one of their top-four defensemen it might be difficult to find an impact winger via the trade route, which might force them to turn to the free agent market.

But even that is going to be difficult because it is such a limited market. Now that T.J. Oshie has re-signed with the Washington Capitals Alexander Radulov would probably be the top winger available, but given his history with Nashville there is virtually no chance of that reunion happening. Justin Williams would be an intriguing veteran option, while Joe Thornton could help fill the void at center if Fisher does not return.

Still, not trading from the defense is the absolute right path for Poile and the Predators to take. Not only is that group the backbone of the Predators’ organization and one of the driving forces behind its success, it is also an extremely young group that is all signed long-term on cap friendly deals.

Even with the loss of Neal Nashville still has a deep group of forwards, while youngsters Pontus Aberg and Kevin Fiala could get an increased role and an opportunity to shine.